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AIM Makes The Right Tools Available, Says Ron Pierce

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The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association recently rebranded itself the Auto Care Association, favoring the phrase “auto care” over “aftermarket.” Will you and your group adopt this new language? What are your thoughts on moving away from the term “aftermarket?”
I believe it is time to rebrand. So many aspects of our business and the world have changed since the term “aftermarket” was first used. Yes, we will adopt and embrace the change. It is vital we speak as one voice as an industry and ultimately to the end-user.

The aftermarket truly has become a globally-reaching industry. How much of your group will represented by stores or warehouses outside the United States?

We always strive to reach out globally to bring in new members to our group. At present, it is a top priority to increase this segment of membership. There are so many avenues to reach out with the ever-increasing level of available technology. Our vendor partners have global reach and our group has benefited from working with them. Let’s just say with Uni-Select owning the group that at least 20 percent to 30 percent of our group is represented outside the United States.

How can eCommerce be used as a strategic benefit to program groups?
I no longer see it as a benefit, but a total tool in maintaining our membership and securing new members. Said another way, we use it for websites, e-cataloging and electronic data exchange. Business-to-business for buying and selling. Our group also uses it in conjunction with “snail mail” through updates, newsletters, promotions, etc. with our members. And, today the security of business transactions is a must, as we receive and transmit funds from our office to all business partners. eCommerce is a way of life today, and much more than a benefit for our business.

What particular attributes about your group give you a leg up over the competition?
We offer a number of different ways to buy through our group. A member can buy direct from our vendor partners through our approved lines. We also offer a Co-Man option as a convenience that highlights ease of ordering and competitive pricing. And, with our relationship through Uni-Select our members have quick access to Uni-Select’s national network of warehouses or they can enjoy the many benefits of EDS (Enhanced Drop Ship.) A great number of members buy through our group in a variety of ways and this has truly given them a leg up in this competitive business environment.

How does your group get the right mix of parts on the shelf?

Obviously, this is an on-going issue in our industry. We work with our vendor partners and assist our members to maintain a ready line of communication with all the avenues listed above concerning eCommerce. Inventory that doesn’t sell or turns slowly hurts everyone. Communicating and making inventory available through the group that another member can use is a service that has met with some success in our group. Giving our members every tool available to make the correct buying decisions and proper inventory is always a top priority of our office.

Do program groups look different today than they did, say 10 years ago? If so, how? How will they look in 10 years?

The short answer is, yes, they look and are different than 10 years ago. What hasn’t changed over the last 10 years in our business? The very competitive nature and changing business environment with a shrinking member base to draw from has its challenges. The concept of mergers in program groups wasn’t around 10 years ago. Consolidations on the manufacturer side are happening more rapidly than a decade ago, also. Looking forward, we see all of the above picking up pace. Program groups will be larger in size and scope. To thrive and survive the strong must continue to evolve with the proper mix of members, vendors and programs.

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