by Jon Mikelonis
Save for Napa Auto Parts and a few small mom and pop shops
that have managed to hunker down to secure their local clientele,
the real auto parts store is gone. Nowadays, both you and
I are left with really just three auto parts retail options:
national chain stores like AutoZone and Advance Auto, the
internet, and Wal-Mart. Yes, I just said Wal-Mart. Love them
or hate them, according to an article from DSN
Retailing Today, Automotive (a.k.a. Department 10) at
Wal-Mart is believed to outpace segment leader AutoZone in
total revenue. Also to Wal-Mart's credit, automotive parts
and accessories is a category that other mass retailers have
scaled back or eliminated altogether.
But you're right,
you won't be able to pick up an idler arm or a set of spark
plugs at Wal-Mart. However, take a look at the prices of the
commodity items you purchase for your Ford project cars, utility
vehicles, and daily drivers. The savings you can realize at
Wal-Mart on oil, filters, fuses, solvents, cleaners, and other
miscellaneous fluids, is worth the extra trip for tune-up
items, especially when compared to national chain stores.
Value pricing is what Wal-Mart does best and understanding
the needs of the average American enables them to put the
right products in front of our faces. Add a dose of Wal-Mart's
notorious hard-line supplier pressure and their value pricing
on automotive supplies soon become available at their famous
"Everyday Low Prices". While Wal-Mart's focus in
Department 10 is on welterweight do-it-yourselfers, the stuff
those guys buy is still a subset of what the more ambitious
performance-oriented enthusiast needs to service their toys.
Location, Location, Location
Piggybacking on the traffic a Wal-Mart store generates within
a shopping complex serves as a tractor beam for smaller retailers.
This is even placing automotive chain stores like CSK Auto
right into the same Wal-Mart-centric shopping complexes. While
this is normally a good strategy for a retailer, it only works
for those retailers offering something that Wal-Mart doesn't.
Regardless, the phenomenon benefits the DIY consumer by making
a trip to two retailers for automotive tune-up items, all
the more convenient. However, you've got the believe that
national automotive chain stores are feeling the drain caused
by Wal-Mart's Department 10. For example...
not just a hodge podge of automotive products, these
six items are some of the best selling tune-up items
nationwide. So common they're available at almost every
national chain store. What isn't common however, is
the price. One particular mass retailer is leaving the
national automotive chain stores in the dust. Who else
Let's do some comparison shopping using Wal-Mart, Kragen
(CSK), AutoZone, Napa Auto Parts, and Pep Boys. The items
shown to the right served as the basis of the comparison.
All six products should be very familiar to any do-it-yourself
automotive enthusiast. Whether you still use FRAM brand filters
or not, probably depends on how much money you've got invested
into your project car. No need to email in your outrage yet,
because even if you've got a $10,000 stroker in your Falcon,
many of us still run throwaway paper elements in our low-budget
street machines, daily drivers, and utility vehicles. As for
the other items shown, we can bet that you still buy them
on occasion if not regularly for use as intended or otherwise.
All are staples in the do-it-yourselfers garage or shop.
With the first formulations sold in cans in 1927, sometimes
we can forget the longevity of brands like Prestone Antifreeze/Coolant.
The stuff isn't cheap which makes any reason to remove your
radiator for a performance upgrade a reason to get out the
catch-can. No matter what though, you're always going to lose
some anti-freeze during radiator removal. For that reason
you can bet there's a bottle of antifreeze in almost every
enthusiast's work area, including yours. No sense in overpaying
for the mean green.