Despite the fact that women drop a cool $300 billion on auto repair each year (and buy 65 percent of all new cars), the automotive business is still pretty much a boys’ club—except, lately, for Pep Boys.
The 90-year-old auto parts and service chain recently commenced the “Road Ahead,” a rebranding initiative aimed at making stores more accessible and service-oriented. Thus far 70 of Pep Boys’ 800 locations have been fitted with smart waiting areas boasting leather chairs and free WiFi, a merchandise mix that includes more lifestyle accessories, and a renewed emphasis on service: greeting customers with a handshake (as the chain’s founders did in the old days) and patiently explaining each repair before it shows up on the bill.
Though these measures are not targeted toward women exclusively, CMO Ron Stoupa said that the growing influence of female customers in the auto category was a motivator.
Historically, “this industry didn’t cater to the female side because they weren’t seen as do-it-yourselfers—they didn’t like having their hands dirty,” he said. “What we see now is that, because gender roles have changed, women are taking the responsibility [of having the car fixed],” Stoupa said, “and they have different—and higher expectations.”
Like, say, honesty. Stoupa vividly recalls how one focus-group member described repair shops as “a valley of liars and thieves.” He conceded: “This is a tough industry to gain trust in.”