February 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

Small-town Chevy dealer revs up accessories sales with a web site

A small-town Chevrolet dealer’s formula for growth on the web: Start with known local-store demand for auto accessories, add a great web address good not just for Chevy but all GM accessories, and launch the site on a platform that can scale up for growth.

Before TheGMMall.com launched, Castrucci`s accessories customers bought mostly what was displayed in the dealer`s showroom store and other common items like floor mats. Now, with new customers finding Castrucci`s accessories business by searching the web, it`s marketing a broad range of items including camping equipment and $1,200 leather chairs with Corvette logos.

"With the store, people only knew we sold Chevy accessories, but with the web site, we get customers for all of GM," Ernst says.

For example, Castrucci is selling $200 tents specially made according to GM specifications to fit on the back of its pick-up trucks. "We never thought tents would sell for pick-ups," Ernst says.

TheGMMall already offers more than 1,600 products and averages $100-$150 per purchase, but Ernst says he adds items to the site every day. "We still have another 1,000 or 1,500 items we could sell," he says.

Castrucci operates TheGMMall on IBM`s WebSphere Commerce Express platform, which is capable of running up to five separate web sites, IBM says. Castrucci developed the site with Information Design Inc. and is planning to integrate it with an e-mail marketing program to expand its customer base. Although Ernst would not specify the amount of traffic or sales the site generates, he says peak activity reaches 200% over what the dealer has done offline.

But Castrucci is not stopping with GM. It also owns a Ford dealership, and is looking into launching a site dedicated to all Ford Motor Co. accessories, Ernst says.

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