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APA: First-Half Highlights Include New Website, New Conference Format

From the June issue of Counterman, Sara Griewing reflects on APA’s first-half highlights and looks ahead to second-half opportunities.

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In our 2019 Midyear Distribution Update in the June issue of Counterman, aftermarket leaders reflect on their first-half successes and look ahead to second-half opportunities.

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Here’s our Q&A with Sara Griewing, creative & marketing manager for Automotive Parts Associates:

CM: We’re at the halfway point of 2019. Could you reflect on APA’s accomplishments and highlights from the first half of the year?

SG: First, I appreciate the opportunity to contribute and reflect on the first half of 2019 on behalf of Automotive Parts Associates. It is all too easy to become so engrossed in future initiatives that we lose sight of just how much has been accomplished within an organization, especially in such a short timeframe. Looking back six months and beyond into 2018, it has been a very busy and exciting time for APA, with a great deal of dramatic changes. We are proud of everything we’ve accomplished so far.

The team at HQ has been diligently working on and developing new shareholder programs and various technology-based resources, notably being the first distribution group to adopt the Nexpart SourceIT system to grow business and volume between shareholders. We expanded our relationships with new supplier partners adding valuable product lines, as well as added benefits to the Professionals’ Choice Auto Service Center to level the playing field for mom-and-pop repair shops competing with big chains. We launched a mentoring and assistance program for shareholders, sent three promotion grand-prize winners to Nashville for the CMA Fest and hosted our biggest event of the year with a successful new meeting format, the annual Shareholders and Suppliers Conference.

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However, the standout accomplishment for APA has been the completion of the second phase of our rebranding strategy with the launch of our new website. The previous site served shareholders well for a long time, but the update provided an opportunity to share more about APA and give visitors an accurate representation of who we are, as well as give us more flexibility to add features to serve our shareholders and suppliers as the industry continues to change.

CM: What kinds of challenges and opportunities are you seeing in aftermarket distribution this year?

SG: From my observations, the biggest challenges facing our shareholders and aftermarket distribution as a whole are international tariffs and mergers and acquisitions. The tariffs are important while the uncertainties of pricing changes that affect our shareholders’ bottom lines continue to be a concern, but the recent and substantial supply chain mergers and acquisitions are hot discussion topics among everyone, including suppliers. The unknown factors, such as questions about brand stability, quality, product availability and changes to negotiated distribution group program lines, as well as rebuilding relationships from staffing and management changes that occur as a result of mergers and acquisitions, can cast a shadow of negativity and prevent the positive aspects of these changes from emerging.

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In situations like this, the role of APA is to remind all of our stakeholders that significant changes and questions about the unknown future do cause challenges but ultimately provide an opportunity to evolve and grow with the industry for the better. APA also is not immune to these challenges, and as a result, we are constantly adapting as well and must be proactive in developing new processes and programs to mitigate the associated growing pains as much as possible.

CM: What’s on APA’s agenda for the second half of the year?

SG: We will be continuing our focus on shareholder support with unique initiatives to grow APA volume and shareholder profitability, as well as renegotiating programs with suppliers for the greatest impact and hosting regional meetings across the country for shareholders to network and collaborate on various topics. In addition, we will be adding new features and content to the website to maintain an engaging experience and drive traffic to our shareholders’ businesses, as well as redesigning communications materials to reflect our modern branding and messaging. We also will be gearing up for our “SunSplash Caribbean Cruise” customer loyalty and networking event in January and finalizing details for the 2020 annual Shareholders and Suppliers Conference in San Diego.

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CM: Anything you’d like to add?

SG: APA is a little different from other distribution groups because it truly is a not-for-profit cooperative that gives back all proceeds after operating expenses at the end of each year and there are no compliance or minimum purchase requirements. However, I believe that the most important facet of APA is that the board of directors and the team at HQ strive to ensure that shareholders are the top priority, whether it’s through the development initiatives and services or as resource for support. The team at HQ is small but mighty; we have a lot of moxie and are proud to wear a lot of hats to give shareholders resources to succeed in addition to the financial benefits of belonging to a distribution buying group. APA shareholders are a fantastic and diverse group of people and aftermarket businesses, and personally, I’m proud to be a part of this organization with its foundations built on shared goals and, most of all, its sense of community.

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