It’s no surprise that gas prices are having an effect on miles driven. In March of this year, Americans drove about 3.5 billion fewer miles than in March 2010, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The overall economy, gas prices, competition and whatever other reasons you might cite have forced all of us to evaluate our businesses on an on-going basis.
The rise in gas prices and resulting dip in miles driven mean vehicles aren’t being driven as much and don’t get broken as often. It also means suppliers are feeling a squeeze in margins, according to a recent report by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, which found 97 percent of suppliers were impacted by rising fuel prices, 25 percent substantially.
Our profit structures are affected by many things outside our control and thus we have considered dipping our toes into different market segments that 20 years ago we might not have considered. One of the easiest market segments to delve into is powersports, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is many automotive aftermarket suppliers already manufacture powersports parts and accessories. An automotive aftermarket belt manufacturer, for example, might also make snowmobile and ATV belts.
Think spark plugs
Let’s consider how we may have ventured into various other segments. It could be as simple as needing more sales to generate more profits to pay our bills. The market segment for us, in my estimate, comprises well less than 5 percent for ATV, motorcycles and marine and lawn & garden products. That estimated 5 percent has come for the most part in battery sales. We have sold those batteries for years but, still we have done a very poor job of marketing or catering to powersports customers. Very often our customers just happen to notice we have the battery on the shelf and ask about them.
In the past, we may have ignored the powersports market for various reasons, including the fear of working in a particular area you don’t have much experience with.
For some time, ATV, motorcycle and marine parts have not been very readily available, which has led many stores to not carry them. Oftentimes, the only knowledge we have been able to gain is through our own personal ownership of the various equipment in question. Thus, we as parts professionals have a fear of going for the market segment, first because we know very little about the terminology involved, and second because we would have to outsource the products in question.
My own experience in the powersports segment it has been very limited as we have never had a good supplier. We are still in the infancy of what this market can bring though, and as we overcome our own fears of the market we can grow that segment. We have found that we even run from selling spark plugs, batteries or those aforementioned belts because, we know very little about the model numbers. The reality is that a customer almost always will know more about the powersport equipment than they do about their car or truck. In many cases, this is their toy and they service and care for it more than they do the vehicle they drive every day. The books are from the same companies we deal with daily and we already know where to find all the answers for a vehicle so, we shouldn’t hesitate to look those parts up that we know we can sell.
The best part of the powersport market segment is that they are discretionary items, for the most part, and the customer usually does not care what they cost. They just want it to be ready for the weekend. Another benefit is if we can save them a trip to the dealer, they know they will save money.
As more manufacturers have ventured into the powersports segment, we have been able to put our trust into not only supplying the parts but being able to service them as well.
Recently, rotating electric rebuilders have ventured into the market as they have began to supply us with starters and alternators. We still await firm and dependable suppliers for clutch cables, coils, ignition modules and all the various hard parts that we take for granted in the automotive industry that are not yet available to us in those powersport markets.