Despite a challenging economy and the cancellation and ratcheting back of group meetings and conventions, the Automotive Distribution Network held its largest-ever gathering in downtown Nashville Feb. 26-March 1.
At left: Jay Burkhart (center) senior vice president, Global Aftermarket, Federal Mogul, makes a point during the The Network Convention’s Industry Forum in Nashville, Tenn., while David Honig (left), chairman of the Network, and Mike Lambert, the Network’s president listen. The forum, moderated by Babcox Publications group publisher Jeff Stankard, included Denny Welvaert, president of Dayco, North American Aftermarket; Dick Hedahl, Hedahl’s Parts Plus; Steven Webber, S&S Auto Service, Hamburg, N.Y.; Brent Windom, vice president, Marketing and Product Development, Uni-Select North America; Dennis Call, Sanel Auto Parts store, Pittsfield, N.H.; and Jim Bastone, Bastone Auto Service, Pittsburgh, Pa.
"Your attendance here is a testament to your desire to learn more and to improve your business skills," Network President Mike Lambert told the representatives of more than 1,400 Parts Plus WDs, auto stores and Car Care Centers. The event was such a success that the Renaissance Nashville and nearby Hilton hotels were sold out.
David Honig, chairman of the Network and president and CEO of the Parts House, a Parts Plus distributor with locations in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico, was decidedly upbeat about the convention despite all the gloom and doom in the news media about the economy.
"Sure, we’re in a disruptive age in business. But looking out here at all of you assembled here today is one very encouraging sign. Did you know that we have more people registered here in Nashville than we did for our 2007 national convention in Las Vegas?
"How can we feel negative about your business, your association, your industry when you see this type of participation, camaraderie and participation?" Honig asked.
The Network will be ramping up its marketing campaigns in 2009 to make it more visible to the public, especially women, who make the majority of purchase decisions in American households. "We started using radio for the first time in 2007 as a major medium for image advertising," said Bob Barstow, the organization’s marketing chief. "It was a one-year contract only that we’ve now extended into year three. That extension would not have happened if you were not getting the bang or the impressions that justified your expenditure."
Barstow played a clip done by Marv Albert and Boomer Esiason that announced that Parts Plus Car Care Centers and Parts Plus Auto Stores will be a primary sponsor of the complete NFL season as well as NCAA March Madness.
In addition, Rachel Ray is being brought on board again to appeal to women. "Why Rachel Ray? More than any other Food Network program, her loyal following closely matched our target demographics," Barstow said. The Network signed up for a limited sponsorship of her show "30-Minute Meals with Rachel Ray" in 2008. Now, Parts Plus Car Care Centers and Auto Service Plus locations will be the exclusive automotive repair sponsors of "30-Minute Meals with Rachel Ray" for the entire 2009 season. "30-Minute Meals with Rachel Ray" has a viewership of nearly 1 million households on the weekend and 500,000 each weekday.