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Posted: December 28, 2013

Warm Up Winter Sales With Hot Sellers

Manufacturers Offer An Array Of Customer-Pleasing Seasonal Accessories

By Ellen McKoy

Got a case of cold-weather blues now that summer accessory sales have cooled? If a chill in the air and early-morning frost on the window have you feeling a little down in the dumps, there’s a host of specialty products certain to warm your spirit and heat up wintertime sales.

In fact, now is the perfect time to think of inclement weather as an opportunity to make the season bright and profitable by sparking customer interest and jazzing up winter sales with season-specific interior and exterior products. From cargo liners, mud guards and custom floor mats to seat heaters, remote starts, winter fronts and snowplows, there’s something for virtually any pickup, SUV or CUV.

And there’s nothing like the onset of snow, slush, ice, rain and mud to get customers thinking about ways to protect their vehicle from the elements. For companies like WeatherTech® and Husky Liners®, which manufacture an assortment of custom-fit interior and exterior protective products, foul weather is right up their alley. “Mud guards, floor liners and floor mats are just what the sales manager ordered for those cold winter blues,” said Roger Tibbetts, vice president of sales and marketing for Husky Liners®. “Just when your summer accessory sales are coming to an end, the need for interior and exterior protection products are kicking into gear. At the first sign of winter, consumers are running to their local store looking for ways to keep that mud, snow and slush under control. Floor liners, heavy-duty mats and mud guards are high-volume products during winter months and can generate serious profit. And they make excellent gifts under the tree.”

WeatherTech also offers a line of all-weather floor mats, custom-molded cargo liners and mud flaps ideal for winter sales, said Executive Vice President Ben Batenic. While he noted that the company primarily sells through large WDs, he said in recent years, WeatherTech has focused its efforts “on partnering with downstream resellers, the jobbers and retail stores.” To help drive consumer traffic to these outlets, WeatherTech offers two programs that link jobbers to its retail website. For a modest investment, the Diamond Dealer program provides a shop with both a company listing and ranking on the website.  For smaller volume customers, there’s the authorized reseller program, which earns a shop a spot on WeatherTech’s reseller site. “Our goal,” said Batenic, “is to help jobbers expand their reach and their product mix.”

Taking The Chill Out Of Winter
Few things are more uncomfortable on a chilly winter day than getting into an ice-cold vehicle.  But with the latest remote-start and seat heater technology, it’s easy to warm up any truck interior -- and spark a sale.

MITO, for instance, offers its easy-to-install FTX line of water-proof remote starters as well as vehicle-specific T-harness units. The remote starts are fully programmable and currently available for select Ford, Chrysler and GM vehicles. Among the newest additions from Crimestopper™ are the LC/EVO-ALL remote-start systems, which lend themselves to late- and current-model vehicles -- primarily domestic and some imports -- with either push-to-start or low current ignition systems, according to company President Howard Miller.

Seat heaters are a perfect complement to a remote start system, noted Brian Champa, general manager at Check Corporation. “Many of our restyler and trimmer customers put together cold weather packages, which include such items as seat heaters and remote starts. It’s the perfect combination. The seat heaters start warming when you start the vehicle if you leave the seat heater switch on. They come in a variety of options, can be installed under cloth or leather upholstery, and are perfect gifts for the holidays.”

They are also a profit-builder, said Dave Edmondson, vice president of sales and marketing at Roadwire, which offers both seat heaters and a seat cooling/heating system. “Seat heaters have long been low-cost, high-margin products for retailers, restyling centers and trim shops. In most make/model lineups, base and lower trim levels are not available with seat heaters. Car dealerships take advantage of that by promoting vehicles preloaded with seat heaters. Retailers and expediters who advertise that their shops install seat heaters show growth in retail installations, which is a high-margin sale.”

Revving Up Fleet Sales
Long before snow begins to fall, many contractors in northern areas start thinking about snow removal. For suppliers like Hiniker Company, which offers a full line of professional-grade snowplows for the commercial market, the selling season actually begins in summer. “Most people don’t realize that the snowplow selling season starts in August,” said Mark Miller, Hiniker’s president. “Most of our plows are ultimately sold to contractors -- landscape and small construction firms -- small businesses or government entities. Contractors need to have their equipment installed and ready prior to the first snowfall. Most of the manufacturers run order programs in the spring for delivery (in) the summer. Dealers should take advantage of the order incentives offered at that time. Then get those plows out in front of (their) business to serve as a visible reminder to the customer that they need to be prepared.”

Being prepared is also essential when the temperature drops below zero in places like Minnesota, Vermont and elsewhere. When that happens, starting a truck can be challenging. Which is where winter fronts come into play. Constructed of commercial-grade vinyl and designed to minimize air flow through the grille, winter fronts allow the engine to heat up more quickly and can improve fuel economy.  “The Bellmor WinterFront improves the performance of a truck’s engine by reducing the flow of cold air flowing over the radiator and other engine components, thus helping the engine maintain optimum temperatures,” said Ron Grabowski, marketing manager for Bellmor, a division of Lund International. “It’s ideal for super- and heavy-duty trucks and buses.”

Fia also produces a line of custom-fit winter fronts for diesel and gas-powered trucks. “Dealerships and commercial/fleet accounts are the primary customer base for this product,” said Randy Malowski, sales and marketing manager. “Because diesel trucks are inherently harder to start in very cold weather, many dealerships sell this as part of every new diesel truck sale. Fast warm up is a must for commercial fleets with diesel and gas trucks, and the winter front assists with that,” he added. “Retailers, restylers and jobbers who are successful with this product begin promoting in the fall. On-vehicle merchandising works best. Once the customer sees it installed on a display vehicle, it sells itself.”

While Mother Nature may be unpredictable, there’s no doubt winter will bring some inclement weather, be it snow and ice in the north or rain and mud in warmer climates. For savvy retailers and restylers, there’s no time like the present to cash in on ways to warm up cold-weather sales.

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