SEFFNER — O'Reilly Automotive has chosen eastern Hillsborough County to challenge AutoZone in a seeming battle for auto parts supremacy.
O'Reilly opened its 4,000 and 4,001st store last week with store No. 4,000 opening in Tampa at 3625 E Hillsborough Ave. — next to an AutoZone — and store No. 4,001 in Seffner at 518 W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd — next to an AutoZone.
Coincidence? Not quite. Strategy? Perhaps.
"It's not that unusual," said Mark Merz, director of external reporting and investor relations for O'Reilly, based in Springfield, Mo.
"We undergo a thorough site selection process that includes studying traffic patterns, ease of delivery for our trucks, retail customer access and other information. Our competitors are likely doing the same thing."
Merz said once the data is crunched, there's a limited number of possible sites left. And if a competitor is nearby, it's probably a proven, viable location when targeting the do-it-yourself consumers and professional service providers.
O'Reilly and AutoZone are both publicly-traded companies that consider the best interest of their shareholders when making business decisions. Both companies seem to be beneficiaries of an aging U.S. automotive fleet, especially in the Southern market where the weather is better.
And just like competitive market share tends to be large enough for supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and fast-food restaurants to coexist within an earshot of each other, this new juxtaposing of rivals could work out for both companies as well, when you consider the differences.
Founded in 1957, O'Reilly operates in 42 states and posted revenues of approximately $6.2 billion in 2012.
Founded in 1979, AutoZone, with headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., has an industry-leading 5,000-plus locations and reported approximately $8.6 billion in revenue last year.
O'Reilly Seffner store manager Ivan Rivera moved from Mississippi to help open the store after working with the company for more than four years. He says the company's advantages include retail price matching for just about anything that moves, but doesn't have wings (translation: domestic and foreign vehicles, heavy duty trucks and trailers, and even marine and lawn equipment).
"One thing about O'Reilly is we never say no," Rivera said.
AutoZone Seffner store manager Brian Argenbright said company strengths include their warranty system, computer network system, customer loyalty program and knowledgeable team members. He didn't appear particularly worried about his new rival.
O'Reilly also plans to open a distribution center in the first quarter of 2014 in Lakeland that will handle the Florida growth plans from Tampa, Orlando and south to Miami. It seeks to open 190 stores this year.
Merz said O'Reilly is planning another Tampa store opening for February at 4315 W Hillsborough Ave. That location won't be directly next to an AutoZone, but there are AutoZone locations three miles to the east and west on Hillsborough Avenue.
Let the battle begin.