Bread, Slurpees and 10W-30?


Grocery and convenience stores have surpassed service stations as the most numerous U.S. outlets for motor oil, according to a new report by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association.

Of course, the grocery/convenience store channel is still far from the biggest in terms of motor oil volume.

The associations triennial Aftermarket Chemicals and Fluids Report says that 95,100 grocery and convenience stores carried motor oil in 2001, an increase of 2,500 from 1998, while the service station channel fell by 1,800 outlets to 93,200.

Part of whats behind this is that there has been a decline in the overall number of service stations, Vice President of Marketing and Communications Richard D. White said. It could also reflect a shift in where people buy motor oil. He noted that the association reported separately last week that females now account for 34 percent of U.S. motorists who personally perform some level of their own auto maintenance, an increase from 27 percent in 1994.

After grocery/convenience stores and service stations, the most populous motor oil channels in 2001 were: non-specialty auto repair shops, with 69,972 shops carrying motor oil; auto parts retailers (37,728); auto dealers (21,600); drug stores (17,193); auto supply jobbers (13,622); and a category that includes quick lubes, car washes and car rental agencies (12,949).

Ten other categories, covering everything from specialty auto repair shops to hardware stores and discount retailers, had more than 1,000 stores each that carried motor oil. Similar numbers of stores stocked motor oil additives and automotive functional fluids.

Overall, the number of sites carrying motor oil or other automotive fluids dipped to 468,320 in 2001, from 471,300 in 1998. Since 1989, the number of total outlets has dropped almost 5 percent, from 489,897.

Some motor oil market insiders contended that the number of stores in various channels is less significant than the volume of product they sell. Several noted that sales have shifted in recent years from do-it-yourself (DIY) outlets to do-it-for-me (DIFM) installers, such as quick lubes.

There may be a lot of grocery and convenience stores but in terms of volume theyre pretty small channels, said Larry Solomon, manager of consumer research for The Valvoline Co. He quoted a syndicated report by NPD as showing that grocery stores, convenience stores and service stations together account for only 5 percent of DIY motor oil retail sales in the United States. Service stations account for 7 percent of DIFM sales.

The question is, how much volume is going through those stores, said Steve Christie, executive director of the Automotive Oil Change Association, which represents quick lubes. I imagine that the business they get is mostly people who are topping off their oil, rather than buying four or five quarts for a complete change.

AAIAs data about female DIY maintenance performers was part of its 110-page report, The Aftermarket Consumer: Do-it-Yourself or Do-it-For-Me. The report looked at DIYers performing any type of maintenance – from replacing windshield wiper blades to rebuilding engines. Thirty-four percent of these DIYers are female. Valvolines Solomon speculated, however, that the portion of DIY motor oil changers who are women has decreased.

Information about ordering the two reports can be found under Market Research online at

Related Topics

Market Topics