At its Air Conditioning Division National Partner Growth Conference, held here recently, Rheem Manufacturing Co. (Fort Smith, AR) unveiled a new wholesale store concept and product line designed to strengthen its aftermarket offering. Replacing the former Universal Parts line are the new ProStock store brand and ProTech parts brand, both designed to put a greater emphasis on professionalism, efficiency, and customer service.
Don Harter, national parts manager for the Air Conditioning Division, said, “We understand the importance of having the right inventory, merchandising it effectively, and offering contractors ease in shopping and product expertise. These brands enable us to achieve these standards in ways not previously possible.”
A BETTER BRANDWith the installed base of hvac equipment expanding and the demand for parts going up, the parts business is an increasingly important revenue stream. Management re-examined its approach to the market, deciding to develop a strong brand and position it using retailing concepts.
Harter said that it was determined that the Universal Parts name that was being used was too generic. The black-and-white packaging used also made the parts line look generic. And there was no consistency among distributors in merchandising the line.
The company did focus group testing with distributors to develop brand names. Dealer testing was also done. The name Pro-Stock was chosen for its stores and ProTech for its parts.
The new ProStock wholesale store concept is designed to present a consistent brand image. Rheem has developed store layouts, tailored for the distributor, to make shopping more inviting and more efficient for the contractor. Each showroom will be dedicated to nearly all of the store’s inventory, thereby reducing the need for a stockroom, allowing salespersons to remain on the floor to help customers, and offering contractors direct access to the parts and supplies they need.
ProStock stores will also have a new logo, new exterior signage, wall and floor graphics, directional banners, and new designs for delivery and other store-owned vehicles.
A STORE ON SITEAs part of the launch, a full-scale model of the new store format was built for the conference site to enable distributors to experience the new format and see the impact that it will make. Harter expects that it will take about two to three years to fully implement this program with all distributors.
ProTech parts are being rolled out immediately this month and will be compatible with all Rheem, Ruud, and WeatherKing equipment. They feature a color-coding system used to divide the parts into easily identifiable categories. Product packaging and store signage representing a specific line of parts will feature one of 12 different colors, such as red for gas and oil heating, light blue for thermostats and alarms, and purple for refrigerant piping.
The color-coding is designed to improve the efficiency of stocking for distributors, and allow contractors to find parts faster and more easily. The parts line will also introduce a new logo and box design with its color coding, intended to present a better brand image.
Harter likened the company’s new branding approach to NAPA’s well-known automotive stores and parts.
Training will be provided to assist distributors with the transition and emphasize its customer focus. The training program will be offered six times during 2001 in locations around the country.
NEW SCHOLARSHIP DEVELOPEDThe company also announced plans to create a ProStock scholarship in conjunction with its launch. A silent auction was set up for the distributors to allow them to bid on the sample store and all of its parts, Harter said. The winner not only takes home the store but also has a scholarship, which will be endowed with the proceeds from the auction, established in that distributor’s name with a local hvac trade school.
“We believe it is important to reinvest in the future, and the availability of a skilled and qualified workforce is one of the industry’s greatest challenges,” stated Harter.
Rheem intends for the ProStock scholarship program to be an ongoing initiative. Coincid-ing with distributors converting their stores to the new format, a winning distributor will be announced each year.
Publication date: 04/09/2001