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The Network Offers ‘A Pathway’ To Help Distributors Grow, Mike Lambert Says

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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 the term “auto care” is a better description of our industry for the outside world. The term aftermarket, to non-automotive people, creates more questions than it answers. We will certainly use it when discussing and describing our industry to others. For all of us who have grown up in the “aftermarket,” it is a single word that simply describes our segment of the industry. I am sure we will continue to use it internally.

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 have just signed up our first 12 Parts Plus stores in Puerto Rico. We also have added three new members in Mexico and we have members in Canada. This at least makes us a northern hemisphere company and not just a continental U.S.-based firm. Some of our members also sell into Central and South America so we have expanded our reach. The global aspect of our company deals more with the suppliers we use from around the world.

How can eCommerce be used as a strategic benefit to program groups?

Providing eCommerce sites to members is a great opportunity to add value to our member distributors. There are many costs that can be shared making things possible that individual companies could never do on their own. Like our recently released License plate lookup feature on WebShop, and the mobile site with Vin Scan technology. This is why our group has embraced eCommerce, providing a central service to our members for a decade now.

What particular attributes about your group give you a leg up over the competition?
The Network recognized that all auto parts distributors are not the same but most have some very common needs. We have a place for almost any distribution company under the Network umbrella. We have numerous services that we can cost-effectively provide to all of our members. We provide a pathway to help them grow.

How does your group get the right mix of parts on the shelf?
We provide our members with the most robust demand forecasting tool in the Industry. Network Intelligence leverages historical failure rates by part type, vehicles in operation at the zip code level updated quarterly, and local sales information. Product managers who know their customers and the local market remain essential and give our members an advantage over the chain stores. Network Intelligence provides these product managers the information and tools they need to succeed at what they do.

Do program groups look different today than they did, say 10 years ago? If so, how? How will they look in 10 years?
Yes, they do for many reasons. First the makeup of many WDs has shifted from predominately three-step to more two-step. This is a natural result of a declining independent jobber base. Technology has really reshaped what we do and how we do it. The IT staff of most program groups is the largest segment of the company. In 10 years, there will be fewer distributors as consolidation continues.


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