Four To Go goes toe-to-toe with big box e-commerce competition
Wheat Ridge, Colo.—Chad DeVries, vice president of Four To Go, does not buy from Amazon.com - not at home and certainly not at work. He has seen the effects of big box e-commerce and its toll on brick-and-mortar off-road specialty shops, some of which have caved as a result of the tightening profit margins on retail off-road accessories, and he refuses to “feed the beast.”
“Even some of the industry-aligned e-commerce distributors are ‘cutting off their nose to spite their face,’” DeVries said. “The competition for the off-road accessories and upgrades business is now global, so the only way to compete is with your service.”
DeVries, who grew up working at Four To Go and learned the off-road sales and service business while attaining a Bachelor’s in Marketing from MSU, now runs the shop with his father and president, Richard DeVries, as well as his sister, Trisha Krapes, who holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management, and his cousin and lead technician, Mike DeVries. Chad DeVries said Four To Go does not install parts that the shop doesn’t sell because he wants his customers to trust the knowledge and experience the staff has gained over the course of its 46 years in business.
“You can’t be afraid to protect yourself,” DeVries said. “I’ve had other shops call me in shock that we’d stopped installing customer provided parts. But I work with the suppliers I do for a reason – sell quality products at a fair price – and I want my customer’s to trust our knowledge and experience if they choose to spend money here.”
As suspension and lift kit installs on domestic light trucks and Jeeps still drive the business at Four To Go, DeVries has aligned with industry manufacturers such as WARN Industries, Rancho Performance Suspension & Shocks, Fabtech Motorsports, Daystar Suspension Parts, ReadyLift, Fox, Bilstein, JKS, and Skyjacker. He said by leaning on the longevity of his relationships with them and the pricing structures they’ve developed exclusively to help brick-and-mortar shops succeed, he is going toe-to-toe with big box e-commerce.
“WARN Industries and Air Lift Company come to mind as manufacturers that are looking out for brick-and-mortar businesses,” DeVries said. “They offer rebates on parts and accessories exclusively for brick-and-mortar shops in the ‘Red Letter Dealer’ program, which gives us a price advantage when competing with e-commerce sellers.”
DeVries said he also benefits from these partnerships by piggy-backing off the research and development (R&D) efforts the companies perform in order to design products that function properly with new ADAS systems.
“I recently spoke to an engineer at Rancho Performance Suspension & Shocks who said, ‘If you think the ADAS systems are bad now, wait until you see the 2019 GMCs.’ We don’t have deep enough pockets to do our own R&D on specific ADAS technology, so we’re relying on our manufacturer partnerships to assist us with extensive customer support regarding this new technology.”
Despite the challenges of increased e-commerce competition and ADAS, however, DeVries said Four To Go’s mission is to continue to fulfill the needs of its customers in a unique segment of the auto industry that “isn’t quite custom car building, but close.”
“We like to work with an invigorated and excited clientele, looking to fulfill a dream or increase enjoyment,” DeVries said. “What I’ve always loved about the off-road business is that for around $1,500 a customer can create a custom look for themselves. We’re never going to be a volume-based business, but helping people achieve something they’ve wanted to do for their entire life is very fulfilling.”
Local partnerships are pylons of support
While Four To Go installs lift kits, wheels, tires, gears, lights, bolt-on accessories, bumpers and undercar components including exhaust, the shop does not work on engines or transmissions and does no electrical diagnostics. DeVries said keeping service limited to a specific niche – off-road upgrades and accessories sales and service – is part of the business model, but means local partnerships are paramount.
NAPA and O’Reilly Auto Parts, Longmont Ford, Stevinson Toyota, MedVed Chevrolet, and Larry H. Miller Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram are a few of the shop’s go-to parts suppliers, beyond its suspension and lift kit components partners. DeVries said he also uses local specialty suppliers for transfer cases and driveline rebuilds.
“When we need a rebuild on a manual transmission or a transfer case that is outside of our service offering we use A1 Transmissions & Parts Co. They do an excellent job - we’ve used them for more than 20 years,” DeVries said.
He added that he works with Scott Farley at Driveshaft International, a Rocky Mountain Driveline Company, for driveline sublets and uses D&D Auto Electric for electrical diagnostic and repair. He sources gears and differentials from West Coast Differentials out of Rancho Cordova, Calif., and relies on local parts distributor Western Automotive Warehouse Distributors (WAWD) for some of the shops heavy-duty undercar component needs.
“We use WAWD for a lot of our heavier-duty needs on ball joints, control arms and other steering and suspension components. They carry the Mevotech line which is using bronze ball joints and harder shafts at a good price point. Rick Yancey, at WAWD, brought the Mevotech line to my attention and it’s been a win for us,” DeVries said.
Diversification into UTV & power sports market
In August of 2014 Four To Go orchestrated a deal to became the Denver-metro area’s only Arctic Cat and Textron Off Road dealer and now offers sales, service and accessories on Arctic Cat and Textron UTVs, ATVs and snowmobiles to supplement its Jeep and light truck upgrades business.