- Location: Johnstown, Ohio
- Industry: Automotive Aftermarket & Hardware
- Number of Locations: 10
- Affiliations: CARQUEST®, Do it Best®
"We wanted to diversify as part of our growth strategy, and we knew Epicor Eagle had the versatility to handle that. It has been an excellent investment, and one we can continue to grow with."
Mike Washington, Partner & Director of IT | Washington Auto Parts
Ohio's Washington Auto Parts strikes perfect balance of scale and family ownership
With 10 stores covering several Ohio counties, Washington Auto Parts is larger than many family-owned wholesale/retail businesses. Yet, family remains at the very core of this second-generation enterprise. Brothers Mike, Bob, and Jim split corporate duties and each oversees a group of stores and/or affiliated businesses.
The company was founded in 1976 by their father, Ken Washington, who had owned and operated an automotive repair business. The reason why he transitioned from service bay to parts counter says a great deal about Washington Auto Parts' approach to customer service.
The original Johnstown location-operating under the CARQUEST banner-was joined by stores in Delaware and Mt. Vernon, Ohio, respectively, over the next several years. The company has continued to flourish under the next generation of Washingtons, who have expanded into several new locations, acquired an engine rebuilding operation, opened a 10-bay repair shop in an area not served by existing customers, and entered the hardware trade through an affiliation with the Do it Best buying group.
"We knew we wanted to grow the business differently," said Mike Washington, partner and director of IT for Washington Auto Parts. "We wanted to diversify as part of our growth strategy, and we knew Epicor Eagle had the versatility to handle that. It has been an excellent investment, and one we can continue to grow with."
Smart decisions, faster
The decision to upgrade to Eagle was made in late 2008, as the brothers were planning the expansion into the hardware business. The Eagle software, which is used in thousands of hardware businesses, made sense due not only to its versatility, but also because the family had a long and successful experience with an earlier Epicor retail business management solution.
As Partner and Director of IT for the business, Washington also wanted a system that offered customer-facing capabilities that would help level the playing field with large national competitors. "The right technology allows us to have the right part when our customer wants it. The automotive and hardware markets are very inventory-intensive, so that capability is huge. But our competition has technology too, so we have to be able to match them or we'll get dusted" said Washington.
While national chains enjoy a variety of competitive advantages, they can't match Washington Auto Parts' responsiveness. "When we need to do something, we can decide today and implement today," said Washington. "We make extensive use of Epicor Compass analytics, which provides critical information on an hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly basis to help us identify what's happening in the business."
Operate the way we want
The Eagle software's Stock Transfer Balancing feature automatically balances incoming stock among assigned locations based on sales history. "Manufacturer buy-ins help us remain competitive but we can't afford to spend a lot of time and labor managing that inventory," said Washington.
Customer convenience up, costs down
Washington Auto Parts offers a variety of technology-based services that rival those of the largest national chains. The Eagle software's integrated Epicor iNet eBusiness suite enables repair shops and other commercial accounts to easily access their invoices and statements online. And because store operators can instantly e-mail or fax end-of-month statements and invoices directly from the system, they can save thousands of dollars on paper, printing, and postage.
The Washington family's employees are equally satisfied with Eagle. The integrated Epicor LaserCat 3 electronic catalog is the primary parts research and sales tool for counter professionals. And, the business was one of the first in the aftermarket to switch to the Epicor Payment Exchange (EPX) credit card processing solution, which speeds transactions at the counter. In addition, because EPX is used by thousands of stores powered by Eagle, each business benefits from significant volume discounts that would otherwise be absorbed by many third-party processors.
"We are getting a really competitive rate and are completing our credit card transactions much faster now that our employees don't have to wait in line to use a single machine," said Washington.
A vision for the future
The Washington brothers continue to look for new opportunities to better service existing customers and earn the loyalty of new ones. Yet, in spite of the growth and other changes ahead, the family is confident they won't need to replace their business management system for many years to come.
"Epicor has really gone above and beyond for us," said Washington. "The software is really strong and keeps getting better, and I've been very impressed with how their people have worked with us through the years."
Epicor Software Corporation is a global leader delivering business software solutions to the manufacturing, distribution, retail, and service industries. With more than 40 years of experience, Epicor has more than 20,000 customers in over 150 countries. Epicor solutions enable companies to drive increased efficiency and improve profitability. With a history of innovation, industry expertise and passion for excellence, Epicor inspires customers to build lasting competitive advantage. Epicor provides the single point of accountability that local, regional, and global businesses demand. For more information, visit www.epicor.com.