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Monday, 30 November 2009 14:01

O’Reilly Automotive—50 Plus Years, 3,450 Stores and Growing

With a track record of more than 50 years carrying a huge inventory of auto paint, equipment and related accessories, as well as every mechanical part imaginable, O’Reilly Automotive, Inc. is spreading throughout the country and expanding its network of stores at a phenomenal rate. In 2008, O’Reilly completed the biggest acquisition in the company’s history with the purchase of CSK Auto. This and past acquisitions have made O’Reilly one of the top three auto parts chains in the country.

    O’Reilly officially got its start in the auto parts business in Springfield, Missouri in November 1957. The company was founded by Charles Francis O’Reilly, a traveling salesman for Fred Campbell Auto Supply in St. Louis, according to the company’s corporate Web site.
    By 1924, Charles had become familiar with the Springfield area, traveling by train to sell auto parts throughout his territory. He recognized the region as an area of growth and opportunity and asked to be transferred there. By 1932, he had become manager of Link Motor Supply in Springfield. One of his sons, Charles H. (Chub) O’Reilly, had also joined the company. Together they provided the leadership and management that made Link the predominant auto parts store in the area.
    In 1957, Link planned a reorganization, which would have included the retirement of 72-year-old Charles F. O’Reilly, and the transfer of C. H. O’Reilly to Kansas City. Since neither agreed with these plans, they made the decision to form their own company, O’Reilly Automotive, Inc. They started in November 1957 with one store and 13 employees in Springfield. Their sales totaled $700,000 in 1958, their first full year of business. Due to the hard work and ability of the original employees, several of whom were stockholders in the company, the business grew and prospered from its very first year. And the rest, as they say, is history. O’Reilly has grown rapidly, especially in the last decade, adding stores and territories every year. The recent successful CSK acquisition and ongoing store conversions bodes well for a productive 2010 and beyond.
    Matt Weldon, PBE sales manager for O’Reilly, oversees all of the company’s marketing and sales of automotive paint, equipment and accessories through its 3,450 stores in 38 states. Weldon, 37, is a former body tech who started at O’Reilly as a counterman in 1994 and worked his way to his current position almost exactly ten years later, he told Autobody News. He manages a crew of outside sales reps, calling on shops personally or working inside in select stores, depending on the region’s size and sales volume.
    “O’Reilly has grown exponentially since I started with this company 15 years ago”, said Weldon. “We had 100 stores when I started and we’ll be opening 100 stores this year alone, even in the midst of a recession we’re still expanding.”
    The acquisition of CSK by O’Reilly builds a strong presence in the West, Weldon said. “This is the largest undertaking we’ve ever experienced,” he said. “We’re in the process of converting 1,349 stores and it’s an enormous job.”
    O’Reilly sells every major line of paint, equipment and accessories, including names like PPG, Sherwin-Williams, DuPont, 3M, Krylon and many more. Currently, 500 stores within their network have the capability of mixing paint on-site and will be adding more to that list all the time, Weldon said.
    One of O’Reilly’s major strengths within its automotive paint department is the knowledge and expertise of the company’s people. “We have specialists that know the products inside and out with many years of experience. We’ve got a great training program and we’ll send our employees to the paint manufacturer’s schools at every opportunity we can to teach them more. Knowledge is the key and we realize the importance of it.”
    Weldon has seen a definite movement where body shops throughout the country are now adopting mechanical repair services into their businesses, he said. “Shops used to sublet things like glass and mechanical, but now they’re doing it all in-house. I’ve seen more and more shops doing diagnostics and putting lubing, oil change and tune-up equipment in their shops. It’s a trend that’s gaining momentum, for many reasons, because shops want to retain total control of the repair process and make more money. So, it makes good sense for the collision industry because in the end the customer gets a better product and the cars get them back faster.”
    Waterborne paint is another issue that’s obviously important to O’Reilly, Weldon said. California is already there, but the company wants to be onboard when other states adapt to waterborne paint systems in the 38 states they service.  
“We want to maintain a green footprint and leading the way with waterborne is one of the best ways to achieve our goals in that regard,” he said. “We have several customers already doing waterborne outside of California and they’ve met with success on several levels. Waterborne is good because it takes the applicator out of the paint booth and saves drying and curing times. In some areas, waterborne is ideal based of the climate and humidity. They can cut one hour off their painting time over solvent.”
Body shops nationwide encountered a ton of misinformation about waterborne in the early stages, Weldon said. “People were scared by waterborne at first, but rumors surrounding retrofitting and the high expense of new equipment has been put to rest. Many of these new reasonably priced handheld dryers on the market have increased air movement sufficiently.
    Weldon has pinpointed two potential areas for possibly changing to waterborne in the next five years. “We anticipate that the next regions to go for waterborne are the Great Lakes and the Northwestern parts of the country. If a customer wants to be converted, we’ll help them get there, but right now the majority of the market isn’t being directed legislatively toward waterborne. Being ready when it happens is a priority for us.”
    “This company offers untapped potential for expansion and improving the stores we currently own,” Weldon said. “We were at the CARS Show in Las Vegas recently, and the body shops we meet with had great things to tell us. We want to service the collision industry as best as we can wherever we’re located and all of our 4,400 employees will be working tirelessly with that purpose in mind.”

O’Reilly Automotive, Inc.
233 South Patterson Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802
(417) 862-6708
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