When COVID-19 took the world by storm earlier this year, it wasn’t long before hospitals, first responders, businesses, and the public were scrambling for PPE (personal protective equipment). Rusty Bryant, wholesale manager at the five-store Sherwood Group of NAPA AUTO PARTS stores in Kentucky, was better prepared than most to meet the demand. Early on he was told by friends at the local fire department where he still works part-time and serves as a volunteer, that all first responders would soon be strapped for gloves.
“When I received that news I ordered an entire skid before there were no gloves to be had,” he said. “The timing was right.” In addition to being the right thing to do, Bryant knew it would be good for his NAPA stores. He donated the gloves to the sheriff, police and fire departments, EMS/ambulance services, and all the hospitals in the five cities and counties where his NAPA stores are located. “We donated thousands of gloves. In all, 384 first responders received gloves in addition to countless hospital workers,” he said. Bryant also made sure he had an ample supply of gloves and masks for all the employees in his stores.
Sherwood NAPA Group Weathers the Coronavirus Slowdown
On March 26, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear ordered all non-essential businesses to stop operating in-person services and urged residents to stay “healthy at home.” Although NAPA AUTO PARTS stores and AutoCare Centers are considered essential, many businesses struggled during the country’s stay-at-home orders.
Bryant and the team at the Sherwood group developed a plan and determined what the breakeven point would be for each of their five stores, located in Flemingsburg, Maysville, Vanceburg, Morehead, and Elizabethtown, Kentucky. “Although April sales were down, we never lost money,” Bryant pointed out. “In May, business came back about 50% and we finished June with record sales. In fact, two of our stores were 6% over quota from the previous year, and one was 123% over. Another missed setting an all-time sales record by just $100.”
Bryant attributes the increase in May sales to many local residents beginning to receive unemployment checks after applying for benefits weeks earlier. In addition, some businesses were reopening and people were starting to go back to work. With money not as tight he said, “People feel better about fixing things and taking care of necessary repairs they had postponed.”
Another contributing factor to positive sales has been service. “During this entire time, our goal has been to provide better service than anyone else while keeping our customers and employees safe,” Bryant noted.
Putting Safety First
He went on to explain, “We made our curbside pickups as easy as possible. Customers could call ahead and we’d have their orders ready. We created a kind of drive-through and put up tents that customers could pull their cars under and our employees brought the orders out to them. That’s especially handy when it rains. We also implemented free home deliveries with the purchase of $25 or more for customers within five miles of our stores.”
Employees have also been following safety protocols. “All delivery drivers have masks and gloves. They wear both when making a delivery. After leaving a shop they dispose of their gloves in a receptacle we’ve provided in their vehicles. They also use hand sanitizer after removing their gloves and at each stop they put on a new pair. When they return to the shop, they wash their hands,” Bryant said.
There are also safety measures in effect at each store for both customers and employees. “When we reopened the inside of our stores we posted signage that details safety measures for customers. To limit the number of customers in the store, no more than one person per vehicle is allowed in at a time—in other words, not the whole family. Doors are marked for entry and exit and there’s a clear traffic pattern set up for people to follow. In addition, we have mobile hand sanitizing stations at the front door that customers are encouraged to use when they enter and exit.
“All employees must be wearing masks and gloves when customers are in the store. We placed Plexiglas barriers at the counters and we have tables in front of the counter to keep people at a 6 feet distance. Customers no longer are required to sign tickets so we avoid having to use and then sanitize pens. And our counterpeople change gloves after taking cash or a credit card.”
Bryant said employees have been on board with all the new operating procedures and are following the guidelines. “We communicated with our employees from the beginning and meet once a week to get their input. Because they have a say in how we have to do business during this time, they’re very willing to following ‘the rules.’ It’s for everyone’s safety. No one has complained.”
Bryant said he knows the new procedures are effective. “There’s a tire center that shares a parking lot with one of our stores. After two of their mechanics tested positive for COVID-19 and the shop shut down we were very concerned because their employees often walk over to our store to get parts. None of our employees have gotten the virus and the health department representative who came by after the outbreak next door saw that we’re following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and that we have the right protective measures in place. There’s no doubt, it’s working.”
More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA AUTO PARTS Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.