the National Catalog Managers Association (NCMA) gathered in San
Antonio, Texas, April 24-27, to discuss the effect that cataloging has
on both counter parts professionals as well as the companies moving
parts through the distribution chain.
The NCMA’s Knowledge Exchange
Conference tackled topics such as migrating from AAIA Legacy to ACES
data standards, to the role that print catalogs still play in
distribution. Attendees heard that paper catalogs, which a healthy
portion of counter professionals still utilize, aren’t going away any
Michele Bracoli from Macomb Printing sat on a
three-person panel of print company reps. She said paper catalogs must
engage counter professionals if they’re going to continue to be used.
“A lot of people tell me the coverage is still the best with the
printed catalog,” she said. But, to maintain their status, they need to
“pop” more to keep counter pros interested. “There are ways to make
catalogs more marketable than just information-based.”
Dick Weise of
Fry Communications said print is something his company will always do,
but all printers are doing more and more digital services. “Wouldn’t it
be neat to have something like an iPad?” he said. “I see it coming. You
could touch the screen, move things around. Look at the pictures while
you’re looking up parts.”
Bill Peretto of Adair Printing believes
the printed catalog’s role is becoming more of a vehicle for
marketing. “You’re showing it off,” he said. “They have 16 to 32 color
pages at the front showing the company’s products.” The counter
professional is seeing that eye-catching color and the photos and it
might grab their attention, he said. That will make an impression and
help drive sales, he added.
The conference turned its attention to
Mexico Monday afternoon. Evaristo Garcia, a Mexico auto industry
expert, explained how difficult it can be for aftermarket auto parts
companies to thrive in that country. For example, he said car
manufacturers can mandate that for a warranty to be valid, all work
must be done at the dealership.
There is no law in Mexico like
the United States that protects a warranty if work is completed at an
independent service shop. That means, in the example he cited, some
cars won’t be repaired in an independent shop for between three to five
years. However, it can cost three to five times more to have repairs
done at a dealer, so many Mexican consumers void the warranty and use a
non-dealer repair shop.
Later, Garcia moderated a panel of Auto
Value/Bumper to Bumper, National Pronto and AutoZone professionals who
operate in Mexico. The importance of paper catalogs to someone like
Rene Smith of AutoZone couldn’t be overstated. “If you killed paper
catalogs, you’d kill a huge amount of business. Don’t do it,” he said
to the laughter from throughout the audience. Smith and the others,
Luis Javier Martinez Jr. of Auto Value and Miguel Angel of National
Pronto, explained that parts lookup on vehicles produced in the United
States is rather easy for them. If the vehicle is produced in Mexico,
there’s more investigative work that must be done. Measuring and
cross-referencing with paper catalogs is essential to getting the right
The difficulty is capturing all that knowledge gained through
trial and error by the counterpros. Much of what’s learned this through
process doesn’t find its way back into cataloging if a particular counter pro leaves his
That information leaves with him or her, they said. “As long as we have
a paper catalog and can cross-reference, we’re OK,” Smith said.
highlight Tuesday morning was an address by John Washbish, president
and CEO, the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance. His overall message to
NCMA attendees? “Help us sell more parts,” he said.
He addressed how
parts proliferation is becoming a huge issue. The numbers of SKUs is
staggering, he said. “By 2012, the average Alliance distributor will
have 500,000 parts in the catalog, not necessarily in stock,” he said.
About half of those parts will be non-application, he said.
away from premium lines is affecting the bottom line, he said. “I’d
rather make 30 percent on a buck than 30 percent on 80 cents.”
“We don’t like this trend,” he said. “But the current economy has made value decisions tougher for consumers.”
he believes, is the key to selling up. “The absence of a compelling
value proposition makes price ‘the boss,’” he said. It erodes
profitability for suppliers and resellers, he added. “You have to give
people a reason to buy premium lines,” he said.
On Monday, attendees visited the vendor trade show, where the conference was held, inside the Hyatt Regency Riverwalk hotel.