However, parts and service comprise more than half of their total profits, which helps explain why car makers such as Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group L.L.C. are building standalone quick-service centers on dealer lots, such as Ford's Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers and Chrysler's Mopar Express Lanes.
Pep Boys is fighting back with a “holistic” rebranding — changing not only its marketing and advertising strategy, but revamping store interiors and exteriors, implementing new customer-service training programs and recalibrating its internal culture. Even its signature Manny, Moe and Jack caricature logo has been redesigned.
Pep Boys also has ditched its price-based tagline and jingle “Everything for Less” and moved to a more relationship-based message with “Trust the Boys to Get You There.”
Boston-based agency Mullen Communications Inc.'s Winston-Salem, N.C., office handles creative for the Pep Boys brand, which spent $23 million on measured media in 2013, according to Kantar Media, a unit of WPP P.L.C.
Pep Boys is tackling two main initiatives through its “Road Ahead” format launched last year. The first is complete store redesigns and the second is employee retraining.
The company estimates a cost of $525,000 and three to four months to transform a supercenter store into its “Road Ahead” design, which includes modern wood and stone exteriors. Inside there are streamlined shopping zones and a large customer lounge with leather chairs, TV, WiFi and coffee bar.
Employees in those stores will go through a “cycle of service” intensive retraining, Mr. Stoupa said. Employees in the rest of the U.S. stores are going through the same training on a smaller scale while they await their own market overhauls. All of Pep Boys' 800 stores are company owned.
Pep Boys' approach is in line with the changing market. As cars become more complicated with more software and computerized parts, consumers are less likely to work on their own vehicles.
“The do-it-for-me crowd is growing fast and the do-it-yourself crowd is shrinking,” Mr. Stoupa said. He used himself as an example, explaining he entered the market as a young man and DIY-car guy with a 1977 Thunderbird, “a lot of time, no money and a lot of knowledge.”
Today he's in the other camp — as someone who has more money, no time and less knowledge of his 2010 Infiniti.
This report appeared in Advertising Age magazine, a New York City-based sister publication of Tire Business. Ms. Bulik is a free-lancer and frequent contributor to Ad Age.