By Chad Simon
The Truck’n America Family Goes the Extra Mile to Service Clients
Truck’n America specializes in truck accessory product sales and installations. Truck caps, tonneau covers and step bars are the company’s best sellers, along with exterior accessories that include sidebars, floor liners and bedliners.
Morrison’s father and grandfather were from Indiana, which was considered “truck-cap central” at the time. They brought truck caps down to Maryland and sold them out of a crab shack they rented in Waldorf.
Today, Truck’n America specializes in truck accessory product sales and installations, and also sells cargo and utility trailers and golf carts. Truck caps, tonneau covers and step bars are the company’s best sellers, along with exterior accessories that include sidebars, floor liners and bedliners.
Sales Growing Post-Recession
The company’s demographic is mostly men between the ages of 35 and 60 who can afford a brand-new truck and want to accessorize it. Because the business is located near Baltimore and Washington, D.C., it doesn’t have an off-roading customer base. Instead, people use trucks commercially for farming, construction and landscaping and for home improvements on the weekends. The company also sells to older government workers who buy trucks for recreational purposes, including hunting, fishing and biking.
According to Morrison, truck sales are picking up due to the drop in gas prices. As a supplier of truck accessories, Truck’n America’s success relies on truck sales, so if that’s strong, business is strong. So far this year, the company’s sales are up 20%. In January alone, sales were up 26%.
Aside from a franchise location that was added about three years ago in Ocean City, Maryland, the company hasn’t expanded much recently due to the economy. At one point, 13 stores spread from Florida to Long Island, New York.
A Tight-Knit Family
The recession was the biggest challenge Morrison had ever faced, but he decided to hunker down and tackle the challenge head on with the Truck’n America family intact.
“We didn’t lay anybody off,” he said. “Things were tight, but we’re family, so we were able to fight through it together. We have a good core of guys; all of our managers have been with us for many years. We are keeping our sales up because my guys treat our customers right.”
Morrison’s newest manager is a friend who was the left guard on his football team in high school, and he’s been with the company for 10 years. Another manager was Morrison’s next-door neighbor growing up. His inventory manager has been working with him for 25 years, and the other four managers started when they were 18.
The company is involved in charity events to maintain relationships with clients, including an annual car show in which the money raised is donated to Southern Maryland Center for Independent Living. In addition, the Morrison brothers coach several of the local Little League teams and Truck’n America sponsors them.
“We’ve all grown up in Maryland and Virginia,” Morrison said. “We’re the local store, so we try to push that angle. If my air compressor goes bad, I’m using a local person to fix it.”
Offering More Than the Internet
Looking ahead, Morrison said that he plans to add a few more stores in Maryland and Virginia for a total of 10.
“I think of this as our market, and I’d like to shore it up,” he said. “One of my guys wrote on one of our signs that we know more than the Internet. I think that’s true. I overheard one of my guys talking to a customer who had bought a weight-distributing hitch online, and he didn’t know how to work it. My guy spent seven minutes on the phone telling him how to hook it up. He asked the customer to bring it in so he could hook it up for him. Try to get that kind of service online. Nobody there knows how to hook it up.”
Morrison admitted that it’s frustrating when someone comes in to touch and feel a product and then goes home to order it online.
“We’re getting more than what they charge online because we do know more,” he said. “You don’t get customer service online unless you have a problem. They are all about getting the product to you quickly. If we don’t have it in stock, I can have it to you next day. When it comes to an issue, such as a tonneau cover that doesn’t fit properly, bring it in, we’ll adjust it, and you’re on your way. We’re getting some customers who have gone to the Internet to buy a product cheaper and thought they saved money, but in the long run, they really didn’t because of the technical issues they had.”
It may sound clichéd, but Morrison’s advice to novice retailers is to treat everybody well, both clients and employees. Nothing happens until the sale is made, so your success is based on the performance of your employees.