Lower Temperatures Can Equal Higher Sales


As the temperatures drop outside, sales inside shops at the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas can climb. When extreme weather strikes, drivers need everything from fuel additives to a place to wait out storms, and that can add up to incremental sales growth not only in the shops, but also in c-stores and restaurants. Sales at truckstops equal greater sales for their suppliers, so Highway Business Matters talked with experts to learn more about the opportunities winter brings.

Dave Dettman, director of operations for Gateway Service Center in East St. Louis, said service work increases on days when temperatures drop below freezing. "Last year, on some of those days, we had people standing 20 deep at our service counter because you have so many trucks that won’t start. On those kinds of days, it is all hands on deck."

"It is the temperature extremes that drive business for us," said Tommy Davis, vice president of service centers for AMBEST. "The colder and more miserable it is, the better business is."

Cold weather can expose maintenance shortcomings that drivers have to address. Dettman said electrical problems become more pronounced as temperatures fall. Lower temperatures cause batteries to have less amperage output, yet at the same time the amperage requirements to crank the engine over are higher.

"Your electrical system doesn’t have to be in the ultimate condition when the weather is warm because you mask some of the problems, but as the temperature decreases, any problems you have become compounded," said Dettman.

Additives also take on new importance when temperatures drop below freezing. "At that point you don’t even bother to put it on the shelves. You put the boxes out on the floor and go back in 15 minutes and throw the empty box away," Davis said.

In addition to increased additive sales, Dettman said sales of windshield washer fluid, starting fluids and lock sprays also grow.

Tire sales often remain strong in the winter. "In the bitter cold our tire sales will be as good as they are in the summer. Ice and snow are very abrasive," said Davis. "From a sales standpoint you want to place the thought in someone’s mind that they need new tires for better traction."

Drivers typically end up spending time inside the location while their truck is being worked on or if the fuel has gelled due to low temperatures. "The only way in a lot of respects to get that vehicle thawed out is to have it in the building and it may have to sit for a few hours," said Davis.

That can add up to higher sales in other profit centers at a location. "If the weather is really bad they’re going to spend more time at the facility," said Davis. "It may be forced by road closures or it could be common sense if they choose to wait for the weather to break."

For example, stretches of I-80 in Wyoming frequently close. "If you have a nice facility, it gives drivers a nice place to wait and it gives you the opportunity to sell them something," said Davis.

{HBMHighway Business Matters is a brief semi-monthly newsletter created exclusively for companies that provide products or services to the truckstop and travel plaza industry. Highway Business Matters will keep you informed on trends, tactics, and tips to help you connect to the $65 billion truckstop and travel plaza industry. 

Help tailor Highway Business Matters to meet your needs by sharing your feedback and story ideas. Send your input to: atoner@natso.com.

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
Highway Business Matters (HBM)
Supplier Focus:
Retailer Featured:
Gateway Service Center

Tell Us What You Think

Back to Great Ideas