I had the privilege of recently attending AAPEX, our industry’s largest showcase of new and innovative products from more than 2,000 different vendors, held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was my third time walking the aisles of the Sands Expo Center, catching up with old friends, making new connections, and learning about the latest aftermarket products. I especially enjoy “discovering” products that I haven’t seen before, and AAPEX is a prime opportunity to do so. Aftermarket manufacturers and vendors have the opportunity to display their wares in front of nearly 70,000 buyers, all in one (huge) location, so AAPEX is often the place for new product launches and information.
All segments of the aftermarket are represented at AAPEX. From the smallest independent stores to the largest national retailers, buyers negotiate contracts with suppliers, determining the items we will ultimately find in our catalogs and on our shelves. From raw materials to finished goods, manufacturers, importers, and wholesalers come together to keep the links of our supply chains connected. International trade associations, catalog managers, buying groups, educators, and other automotive service providers bring their expertise to Las Vegas, sharing information, ideas, and solutions to the unique problems facing today’s aftermarket businesses.
As a parts specialist, one of the biggest benefits of attending AAPEX is the ability to see into the future of our aftermarket. Collectively, the aftermarket invests a great deal of time and effort identifying the technology and trends that will keep our inventories current and relevant to the customers we serve every day. By showcasing their most important items, and revealing new marketing and promotional strategies, these companies are sharing their knowledge of the aftermarket with us. With booth space at a premium, the items that these companies choose to promote give us an indication of what they feel are the future of their companies, as well as ours. With the complexity of today’s automobiles and the expanding categories of new components, it can be difficult to keep up with just what we do have available to us.
Another benefit is seeing what “the competition” has to offer. Sure, I enjoy stopping by the booth with a familiar name brand and getting information on their latest offerings, knowing that these products are already headed for my store shelves. But for every vendor you already deal with, there may be two more selling the same products. What do they have to offer, and how do they compare with the brands you are already familiar with? At AAPEX, I am able to learn more about these competitive brands, and become better informed about the products that might be offered at the parts store across town.
A good parts specialist knows their company’s product lines, the features and benefits of those products, and can use this information to recommend the most appropriate solutions based on their customer’s needs. A great parts specialist also knows these things about the products that they don’t carry. For store owners, buyers, and even for those of us at the front counter, AAPEX is a great place to become a more informed (and more effective) member of the aftermarket community. Next year’s show runs from October 31st through November 2nd. I will be there, how about you?