The do-it-yourself auto parts segment has picked up steam in the coronavirus pandemic, as customers keep their used cars and trucks longer, more households are watching their budgets, and people have more free time on their hands, whether working from home or possibly laid off, according to a supplier.
“First of all, you have an aging fleet. You’ve got less new-vehicle sales,” said Tom Greco, president and CEO of Advance Auto Parts Inc., Raleigh, N.C. Its more than 5,900 locations in U.S. markets and Puerto Rico include Advance Auto Parts stores and independently owned CarQuest stores.
“Second, you’ve got people avoiding mass transportation, so we are seeing more personal-vehicle use. Third, they have time on their hands to do DIY work. They’re sitting at home looking at a screen all day. It could be home improvement, or it could be DIY on your car,” Greco said in a phone interview.
Auto repair was defined as an essential business during coronavirus-related business shutdowns. Between that and an uptick in consumer demand, Advance Auto Parts has not had to lay off or furlough any employees due to the pandemic, he said.
The company also cited the fact that it renewed its charity sponsorship of the American Heart Association as of Sept. 1 for three years, while some other companies have been forced to cut back on discretionary spending. Besides its own direct contribution, the company is soliciting contributions from consumers at its Advance Auto Parts and Carquest locations through Oct. 15. Last year’s campaign raised over $1 million, the company said.
In its second fiscal quarter, which ended July 11, Advance Auto Parts net sales increased 7.3% to $2.5 billion. Net income was up 52% vs. a year ago, to $190 million.
In particular, consumer demand picked up as local, state, and regional economies re-opened, Greco said. A lot of consumers purchased parts that the company associates with people putting cars on the road that were sitting idle, like batteries and fuel pumps, he said.
On the down side, the company’s sales to commercial customers were off in the second quarter. Those have started to recover as business has begun to recover, Greco said.
Long term, there is concern in the do-it-yourself automotive space that cars and trucks have become so high-tech, there are fewer jobs consumers can still do themselves. However, Greco said there are always certain jobs anyone can do, and a substantial segment of consumers who prefer to do it themselves, because they enjoy it, and-or because it’s more affordable.
“This is not a new thing, that people think DIY is going away, or something like that, but it’s anything but that,” he said. “You’ve got one person who does a lot, and a person who does nothing themselves. It’s a mixture. You may get your engine work done at the dealer, but you do your own wipers, change the oil, do your own brakes.”