Auto Parts Retailer Finds its Zone

News

Amid expansion plans that have managed to defy the downturn, AutoZone has launched a display soloution that creates a cleaner in-store look while also allowing for a more streamlined rollout. The fixtures are for the auto-parts and accessories retailer’s No. 1 category: motor oil.

AutoZone decided to update the fixtures in fall 2008. The chain launched an action plan to create new fixtures that were more attractive, easier to install and more durable. The existing racks, in place in the chain’s nearly 4,300 locations nationwide, had a lackluster industrial look that allowed the product to fade into the store background.

In addition, the fixtures were problematic in that they were time-intensive to assemble and relied on plastic parts that lasted a scant two to three years on average, necessitating additional labor and expense to replace.

“We needed something less expensive and easier to install and maintain,” said Sheila Southard, category manager, AutoZone, Memphis, Tenn.

For help with a solution, AutoZone turned to Terrell, Texas-based Madix to innovate new displays for motor oil, antifreeze and automotive batteries.

“Madix proposed custom designs that have made a huge difference,” Southard said. The new fixtures, which measure 60 in. wide by 72 in. tall, have gravity-fed displays with dividers that keep the motor oil and antifreeze positioned correctly in the racks. The divider shelves can be adjusted easily if there are changes in product packaging, providing more flexibility for planograms.

“The rack does not interfere with the product labels and also provides a cleaner in-store look,” Southard added. “We think the more upscale presentation will translate to higher sales.”

Madix also incorporated the separate parts that AutoZone had been assembling into one streamlined unit, reducing installation time and replacement costs.

“We were able to eliminate five different parts and go to metal components that are more durable,” Southard explained. “They last longer so we don’t have to budget for replacement costs.”

But the immediate benefit for AutoZone was reduced installation time, which was slashed by 75%.

“Previously, there were so many nuts and bolts that it took a two-man team 16 hours to install a display,” Southard said. “Now it takes two men about four hours.”

AutoZone stores average 6,500 sq. ft. to 8,000 sq. ft. With a narrow 10-day opening timeframe per stores, shaving 12 hours off each installation “dramatically reduces structural fixture time,” Southard said.

The retailer tested the new fixtures in about 40 stores close to its Memphis headquarters, tracking the performance and reviewing progress with its executive team before standardizing on the three displays for all new stores.

A retrofit was completed across all stores in 2009.

“It went so well that we are beginning the next phase related to a similar design for the battery racks starting in January 2010,” Southard added.

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