Real World Retail: AZ Motor Trendz
AZ Motor Trendz’s product mix meets the needs of a unique work and play clientele.
WORDS BY ROSA SOPHIA
In Peoria, Ariz. in 2007, Randy Flora decided it was time to open his own shop after starting a business in his home garage. “I got tired of working out of my house, so I decided it was time to try to open a car audio shop. We did it and here we are 12 years later,” he said, adding that he started with a business partner but became full owner in 2010.
Currently, the bay can hold about four cars. The shop has a lift, a small woodworking area and a tire machine area. All employees are cross-trained to work with customers and answer phones, as well. “Both of my main guys can do audio, video and suspension work,” Flora added. “I have one guy who does tires, mostly. In Arizona, the big market is trucks. If I expanded, I would add another lift and probably go after dealership work, which is tough, but that way we could ensure we always have vehicles.”
Continued training for team members and increased staff tenure has helped contribute to recent accomplishments, too. “The longer they’re here, the more they absorb. There’s just less pressure on me, and I don’t have to be the main salesperson,” Flora said.
The shop stays informed by attending vendor trainings. “I haven’t been able to send the team to Mobile Solutions or KnowledgeFest, but I have sent them to audio trainings by JL Audio and Pioneer. We have a couple big distributors out here that offer training all the time. I’ve been to KnowledgeFest. Some companies can afford to fly their crew out, but we aren’t in that position yet,” Flora said, adding, “I would love to be able to do that in the future.”
Networking with Local Businesses Helps Increase Profitability
After responding to local demand, AZ Motor Trendz became mainly truck-focused, with about 30 percent of revenue coming from suspension. The second largest category remains car audio and video, followed by wheels and tires, accessories and lighting. Sales are up, Flora noted, compared to last year.
“We remodeled the whole showroom. It took about a year and a half to really get it done. We built our own audio walls. We created more business to business awareness.” Local body shops often call on them, he said. “We have a few body shops in the area that don’t really know the aftermarket, so they’ll have a car that’s crashed and the lights aren’t the same lights that came with the vehicle,” he explained. “The customer wants their lights—they don’t want factory lights. So, the shops we work with know we can figure it out. A lot of times I can look at the light and tell what brand it is.”
The business operates with a small team of five, including Flora, and an essential series of checks and balances to ensure all the work is up to standard. “When something is done, we have another person look it over to review critical areas. Especially [when it comes to] suspension.” With audio, he added, “the biggest thing is making sure you give the car back to the customer the way they gave it to you. Don’t leave fingerprints, check obvious areas like headliners—anything you might have been touching.” The car is inspected when it first comes into the shop, as well as before the customer picks it up.
The hope is to either move into a larger facility, or expand the current one in the next few years, according to Flora. “We’re in an industrial suite here. In this building, I always wanted an extra 1,000 square feet. We have 3,000 now.” With expansion, an off-shoot of the current business—such as a location that focuses only on wheels and tires—might be a possibility, he added. “We might want to do a second location just for that.”
AZ Motor Trendz is a diverse business with multiple categories which Flora described it as fun and challenging. This past year has been especially fruitful. “Our numbers are up. I’m always diligent in marketing and trying to figure out what people are thinking and how they want to shop,” he said, noting that most of the business’s advertising happens through word of mouth or social media,
and customers often come back for more. The majority of the shop’s improvements have been due to revitalizing sales processes and responding to local needs.
Customer Service and Outreach: It’s All About the Numbers
Because customers are sensitive about small business, Flora said, the shop focuses on brand awareness to stay topof-mind. The business’s email list has about two thousand contacts, and both the website and work invoices are used to collect contact information.
“I have a weekly newsletter that either will showcase a product or some type of sale. Most people never really act on the email, and I’m fine with that. I just want them to see my name, and it works.” He added this is important because people know how hard it is for a small business to remain open. “People I haven’t seen in five years will pop back up and say, ‘Wow, you’re still here.’”
Instagram and Facebook provide much of the marketing. On social media overall, the shop spends about $300 a month boosting posts and promoting services. “We sell all the time on Instagram,” Flora said. “The only downside is that social media is never turned off. I’m the only one who gets the direct messages on Instagram, so at 10:00 PM I might reply to someone asking me about a product. Just recently, we sold a whole set of wheels
just chatting back and forth with a guy on Instagram.” This is made easier by a no credit financing program. The customer is able to fill it out and get approval prior to their visit—even late at night. “Once you know [whether they want to pay in cash or finance it] you have another opportunity to close the sale. We instituted that about a year ago.” So far, it’s been very successful, and Flora said he wished he’d implemented it sooner.
The shop is able to entice a sale through Instagram, at which point the customer can fill out the financing application on their phone. “They’re done, and I say, ‘Okay, I’ll see you in the morning,’” Flora added. Another great boon to the business has been Craig’s List. Ads might cost about three dollars, and AZ Motor Trendz spends roughly $100 per month on these ads. For the most part, he said, they advertise truck-related accessories and lift kits on Craig’s List. ATVs and UTVs are also a main focus, Flora said. “But right now it’s so hot we are promoting remote starts.”
For the back to school season, the shop focuses on the video market—including products like headrest monitors.
Promotions will also include encouraging customers to treat themselves now that the kids are back in school, Flora said. Additionally, the shop keeps a close eye on both positive and negative reviews online, making sure to follow up on both.
Location: Peoria, Arizona
Number of Locations: 1
Square Footage: 3,000
Type: Hybrid Boutique
Number of Employees: 5
30% Suspension 25% Car Audio and Video 20% Wheels and Tires 20% Accessories 5% Lighting
President/ CEO: Randy Flora
Sales/ Operations Manager: Eduardo Ponce
Lead Technician: Carlos Mendez
12 Volt Technician: Antonio Mendevil
Shop Intern: Kaleen Scott
Revitalize the Sales Process: Don’t Sell a Business Card
When customers weren’t buying, Flora started to notice a trend. “Instead of looking at the salesperson, the customer would start looking for a way out. They would look down and find a business card,” he said. “The business card was the way out. So, I told the guys we were taking the business cards off the counter. When they asked why, I said, ‘Because we don’t sell business cards.’ Sales is a lost art, and because we’re so used to getting things instantly online, sometimes people don’t know how to slow down a bit.”
Slowing down, he said, is essential when it comes to finding out what the customer really needs. “When someone comes in and says, ‘I need a stereo,’ you have to do a lot of qualifying questions before you get there,” he said. “I teach my guys to slow down and ask. Get to the basics.”
The first thing they do, he added, is look at the customer’s car. “Compliment it. Even if it’s a work in progress. ‘Hey, I noticed you have new wheels,’ or, ‘That’s a nice wrap.’ That slows it down and then you can get back to why they’re there.”
The process helps build rapport, Flora said. “You have to build rapport with the customer. If you don’t, you’re going to be selling business cards—and we don’t do that here. If you just spent 15 to 20 minutes with a customer and you gave them a business card, you just sold them a business card.”
However, Flora added that if customers ask for a card, they will give them one. “But now you have an opportunity to find out why they really want the card,” he added. “Slow it down. I always say you have at least two or three opportunities to close a sale.”
After a sale, the shop always follows up with the customer—especially for suspension work. “We make sure they come back in for a recheck,” Flora said. “We do that for audio, too. When we put a new audio system in, we ask them to come back [so we can check it].”
Leveraging Internet Partnerships and Continuing to Grow
With a focus on mid- to upper-end products, AZ Motor Trendz has built a reputation for providing high quality installation. “People bring their $71,000 F-150s and leave them here with us. They have confidence in us. We have built that reputation. We get referrals, and I love it,” Flora said, adding that in the coming year, he hopes to drive more business into the car audio and video category. “We want to find niche markets, things like blind spot monitoring systems, cameras and more business with dealerships.”
Additionally, Flora sees the Internet as an issue that can’t be ignored. “We’ll probably team up with bigger online stores that sell only products, and provide installation service for them,” he said. “We’re already set up with another thirdparty company for installation.” When someone purchases a stereo, for example, the third-party company will email AZ Motor Trendz to let them know the customer has chosen them as their installation facility.
“You have the ability to say yes or no,” Flora added. “You know where the product is coming from, but the labor rate might not be what you want. The other day there was a light bar installation and we charge a minimum, and they wanted to pay less, so we said no.”
Flora said he sees this category getting bigger and bigger. “There are a few companies out there that sell products online, and they want their products installed by reputable shops,” he explained, adding that if someone buys something, the chances of them keeping it rely on whether or not it was installed properly. “If they have to ship it back, [the
company] just made zero on the sale. But if you have a shop that can do the installation properly, it just makes more sense.”
Flora said he feels this will also build on brand awareness. A customer who arrives for an installation will see the shop offers other products and services, as well. “It’s another way of cross-marketing, and it doesn’t cost anything. The customer is just referred to us when they buy a stereo. The online categories are going to get bigger and bigger. People are very comfortable spending thousands online on something they haven’t even touched, but they’ll still want someone to install it,” he explained. “We make money on labor. We don’t make money on boxes. That went away years ago.”