Remington Industries is one of the world’s largest automotive accessory companies and a category leader in vehicle solutions for interior floor protection, organization and safety. Founded and incorporated in 1982 by Tim Parkes in Montreal, Quebec, the company moved operations to Toronto, Ontario, in 1983. In 1986, the company relocated to the United States and settled in Benton, Tenn. The company’s corporate headquarters are now located in Ooltewah, Tenn.
Remington Industries continues to be led by Parkes, founder and CEO. This past fall, Remington Industries returned as an exhibitor to AAPEX after nearly a decade. The company has made a renewed push to increase awareness of its brands in the marketplace today. In this AMN Executive Interview, Parkes speaks to aftermarketNews.com about recent management changes, along with several new products they’ve introduced in the past few years under notable licensed brands such as Michelin, Rubbermaid and Stanley.
This past year was the first time in a decade that Remington Industries exhibited at AAPEX. How did it go?
How does one measure the success of a trade show? It’s something I’ve always pondered over the years. The show turned out to be a great success for us. We saw a lot of our existing customers, but our revenue stream is a little different than others in this part of the industry. Roughly 50 percent of our revenue comes from the U.S. and roughly 50 percent comes from abroad. However, we were fortunate to meet some of our customers that we don’t get in front of as often; for example, customers from Central America, South America and throughout the Caribbean. So that was great.
But, as you know, certainly in our segment of the industry, there are fewer and fewer customers to do business with. The consolidation of the mass merchants and automotive specialty chains over the years has taken hold. I can remember back in 1984 and ’85, when the list of customers was well over 200 independent specialty chains in the business. The landscape has completely changed today.
Your company should not be a new name to those who have been in the industry for some time now. Remington Industries has been around for 30 years and is a licensee of Michelin, Rubbermaid and Stanley Products, correct? Tell us about the breakdown of the company’s various business segments.
Yes, that’s correct. Our business is set up as two independent business units. The OEM business unit services the OEM market, primarily the Japanese car companies. That’s separate from Remington retail/Remington Industries.
Remington Industries is in the automotive interior floor mat business, the inflation business and the organizational business, under the brands you mentioned. Under the Michelin brand, we market, distribute and sell Michelin matting and Michelin tire inflation maintenance. Under the Rubbermaid brand, we market, distribute and sell Rubbermaid matting and also Rubbermaid interior organization. Under the Stanley brand, it’s really geared toward the truck segment, and then the Remington brand is designed to fill in between those three brands.
Now that Remington is working to renew its presence in the marketplace, what are your priorities today for marketing the business?
Three or four years ago, we expanded into new product categories beyond matting, which is our core business and has been for 30 years. The expansion has taken us into these new product categories such as organizational and inflation. That continues to be the thrust, given the limited number of customers and [the fact] that we want to become more relevant to each of them. We’re doing that through these organic growth units that we’ve got in place.
Why did you feel this past year was the right time to return to AAPEX?
That’s a great question. Prior to venturing out into these new product categories we would see all our customers. We see them and visit with them, and in a lot of cases, we’re category managers for them, so there wasn’t a need to get in front of them or to expose our business to the expense of the show. But, with these new product categories, their buyers and distribution channels are a little different – certainly with organizational, the distribution channels are much greater. They move from traditional distribution channels to specialty chains and mass retailers, and also food and drug. From that perspective, we decided to put a stake in the ground and attend the show. It was a great decision for us.
The overall core business of matting is quite mature. Most, if not all, the customers know who we are from that perspective. Being at AAPEX was about shouting out to new customers who aren’t aware of Remington, and that we’re now in organizational and tire maintenance products.
The most recent demographics are showing that drivers are holding on to their cars longer and longer, particularly in light of the slow economic recovery. Do you find your product categories are seeing a boost as motorists work to maintain their older vehicles?
Absolutely. The average age of a vehicle today is reaching 11 years. It’s one of those product categories – particularly interior matting – that seems to be growing anywhere from 3 to 6 percent, depending on the region. What we’re finding also is that when someone buys a used car it becomes new to them, and we see a bump in sales there as well.
In late October, the company announced changes in management. Tell us about this.
What we did was bring in Tom Norwell from Canada, who is helping our management team sharpen its retail focus. His background is sitting on the other side of the table, running retail stores. He worked for Toys R Us International and also owned and operated a chain in Canada, similar to the dollar type stores you see here in the U.S. He has brought us some invaluable insights on the retail business.
We also promoted Lisa Moses from director of marketing to vice president of marketing. And then, we placed Bart Plaumann into new business development. That’s to support the new product categories and new opportunities that we see there.
Where are your products manufactured?
Our OEM and heavily branded product category manufacturing organization, including Michelin matting, comes out of Taiwan. And then a large piece on the tire maintenance side, as well as some matting products, come out of Mainland China.
What about distribution – how does your distribution footprint shake out in North America?
In Canada, we have four distribution centers – two in British Columbia and two in Kitchener, Ontario. In the states, we have one in Reno, Nev., and one in Benton, Tenn.
You’ve done some interesting research on how consumers use their vehicles to keep their lives organized. Can you tell more about that?
For commuters and certainly moms, the car has become their domain. We’ve done a number of consumer insights over the years and they show that the car, the garage and the home are all merging together. We’re seeing a continuation of that trend, and in years to come it will be that much more integrated. Of course, with that comes designing products that can be used in both the vehicle itself but also can be transferred into the home and into the events of the consumer’s lifestyle – whether you are a soccer mom or an individual commuting two hours a day one of way, all of those various products and designs are certainly addressed in the organization side of our business under Rubbermaid, and also the tire maintenance piece of it.
We are pleasantly surprised by the amount of attention the Rubbermaid organizational line of products has gotten and the amount of new placement we’ve received. These product lines certainly have innovation built into them, but we’re really filling a need that in many cases had been forgotten. So we’re excited to bring that back.