Automotive Parts Associates Touts Strength of Independent WDs

Automotive Parts Associates Touts Strength of Independent WDs

The strengths of independent players are often difficult for big-box guys to replicate, says APA President Steve Tucker.

Steve Tucker, president of Automotive Parts Associates, describes how he feels APA demonstrates its strength as an independent warehouse distributor in the automotive aftermarket. Tucker’s response to our Mid-Year Distribution Update is below. Read the full section in our July issue.

The consolidation of the aftermarket has been a conversation for so many years now that it almost seems unnecessary to discuss further. Far too many see the independent WD as just “hanging on” and perhaps even a relic of bygone years. Those of us who live in this space every day know different.

There is no question that there are fewer individually owned and independent warehouse distributors out there. There are still hundreds out there, however, that not only continue to survive but are thriving. The strengths of the players in the independent space are often difficult for the big-box guys to replicate. These business owners operate very close to the street and can quickly adjust to changing market conditions, see trends and act accordingly.

Servicing the customer and handling issues quickly continue to be the primary drivers, and our companies excel in those areas. Having true professionals with extensive parts knowledge working with our customers is a key differentiator for us. While we all do substantial business online, there is no substitute for personal attention, especially when an issue needs timely resolution.

Additionally, our companies continue to see value in supporting name brands. As vehicle complexity continues to mount, technician customers are looking for brands they trust to ensure the repair is done right – so the independent aftermarket continues to support our customers with manufacturer brands whenever possible.

Another aspect of the business that has been growing is the availability of good data and tools to mine and use that data to tailor inventories, maximize space, control deliveries and improve virtually every aspect of the business models. This is a key area that all the program groups invested in to provide those tools to our memberships in an easy-to-use, concise toolbox. Data is king, and knowing how to take that data and use it to maximize the rest of our capabilities is critical for success and growth.

We can tie this all together with a strong and responsive industry association that all of us need to support as they look out for us at a national level. Our Auto Care Association is one of the best ways we can ensure our future and the future of those who follow us in the independent aftermarket.

I look at other businesses such as pharmacies, retail, hardware, etc., and while the big-box guys have certainly impacted them as well, I still see a big number of independent businesses operating there, with the same “blocking-and-tackling” mentality we use. Service the customer! As a parting thought, I recommend you watch the Tom Hanks movie “A Man Called Otto.” In one of the opening scenes, he attempts to buy a 5-foot length of rope in a hardware store, and the cashier cannot sell him rope by the foot because the system only sells in yard increments. Our folks would’ve figured it out!

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