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Retailer says buying habits have shifted

Bouquet Auto Parts has been helping local customers for more than 40 years

Posted: March 29, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 29, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Bouquet Auto Parts staff, from left, Dustin Miller, Ryan Peart, Brett Delia, Kris Kado, Greg Jordan and Owen Powell.

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First opened in 1972, retailer Bouquet Auto Parts has been a part of the economic changes and trends in Santa Clarita for over 40 years, said its co-owner, Owen Powell.

Originally, the auto parts store operated as Valencia Auto Parts and focused on the wholesale market, he said.

While that name is still on its license, the original founder – champion drag racer and longtime Newhall resident Greg Jordan – changed the name to Bouquet Auto Parts when the store relocated to Saugus on Bouquet Canyon Road, and shifted its focus to selling parts to the public in 1982, Powell said.

“Greg started it from scratch,” he said. “He thought this valley was going to grow.”

And grow it did.

The last recession, however, may have changed consumer habits for a long time to come.

Even though the economy is getting better, people won’t forget the recession that quickly, Powell said.

“People don’t want to be in that vulnerable position again,” he said. “They are making smarter use of their money and are more cautious about what they spend.”

Powell first noted the change in 2012, when business began growing as a result of new customers looking for help fixing their cars, he said.

People owned fewer cars, opted to have their cars repaired rather than buy new ones, and many began seeking help from the staff at Bouquet Auto Parts to make many of the repairs themselves, Powell said.

Unlike the chain stores, which tend to hire retail clerks, he said, Bouquet Auto Parts hires certified mechanics, guys who have actually worked on cars, he said.

Jim Mahboubian of Valencia said last summer that the retailer had earned his loyalty by not making him “feel dumb for not knowing how to repair his car.”

When Mahboubian was having car trouble, he said he drove down to Bouquet Auto Parts for help. The staff came out and popped the hood on his car to take a look, he said.

The staff found he just needed a cam sensor and explained how he could handle the 10 minute job himself, Mahboubian said.

“The average labor rate in L.A. County is $108,” Powell said. “It’s one of the highest in the country.”

When customers come in for help, the staff hooks the car up to a scanner, a diagnostic tool, and nine out of 10 times Bouquet Auto Parts can tell the customer what can kind of repair is needed, he said.

Not all parts stores are allowed to use the scanners because some stores misled customers in the past, Powell said. But he got an okay for his store to use it with California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair, he said.

“We get the customer the right part and give a lot of advice how to fix the car,” Powell said. “A lot of people are also using You Tube to see how to do it and fix it themselves. People have become braver doing work they might not have tried before.”

The store also gets a lot of requests for help repairing brakes, Powell said.

“Most anyone can do it with a little coaching,” he said. “Brakes can be done for $30 or $40.”

Powell is noticing one other trend.

People are spending more money on a quality part that will last longer, he said.

In the past, people wanted cheaper parts because they planned to trade their cars in, he said.

“Now most often I hear ‘we’re going to keep it until it falls apart,’” Powell said. “The same is true of batteries and brake pads. People are planning to keep their cars much longer today.”

Bouquet Auto Parts has been focused on the community of customers it serves for more than 40 years now. But the retailer has seen a large uptick in the number of do-it-yourself customers, Powell said.

“I’ve had people tell me the economy isn’t turning around for them,” he said. “No one has said ‘I’m back to doing what I used to do.’”

Once customers make repairs themselves and find them to be easier than they had thought, they gain more confidence, Powell said.

Working on a car is no longer as intimidating as it once was. And as they acquire knowledge and tools along the way, they keep working on their cars.




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