In our 2019 Distribution Preview in the January issue of Counterman, aftermarket leaders reflect on the highlights and accomplishments of 2018, and discuss their plans, goals and expectations for the year ahead.
Here’s our Q&A with Rusty Bishop, CEO of Federated Auto Parts:
CM: What were some of the highlights for Federated in 2018?
RB: Even with some market challenges in 2018, Federated members had an excellent year, and many experienced record sales levels.
Our group realized many accomplishments last year, including several technological enhancements that benefit members and their customers. We improved our electronic-catalog processes, implemented a new low-cost, internet-based Parts Manager system and made several important improvements to our ESC data-warehouse program. The Co-Man warehouse operation continues to thrive, with record sales and member participation in 2018.
On the marketing side, we provided our members and Car Care Center customers with additional support and programs that helped lead to increased participation. Our sponsorship of the Federated 400 NASCAR race continues to pay dividends, as we entertained more than 1,800 members, customers and vendor partners for this high-profile race at Richmond Raceway.
CM: What does Federated have planned for 2019?
RB: At Federated, we are dedicated to continuous improvement in everything we do. In the coming year, we will continue to focus on creating value for our membership through the services we provide them. We are committed to supporting Federated members and vendors in our marketing programs, data and information processes, inventory-management tools and Co-Man warehouse operation. We provide support programs to our best professional service customers, including comprehensive training opportunities and the Federated Car Care Center program. Going forward, we will continue to focus on the changing marketplace and ways to improve our overall value proposition.
CM: How are you feeling about the business environment for the automotive aftermarket in 2019?
RB: We are optimistic about the business environment in 2019. We think the combination of a larger vehicle population, expanded number of vehicles in the sweet spot, growth in the truck and SUV categories, and a relatively stable economy will support strong demand this year.
Because Federated members focus on providing outstanding service and support to their service-provider customers, as well as supplying them with premium-quality parts and accurate, relevant information, Federated members have a distinct advantage over the competition.
CM: What are some of the macroeconomic and/or regulatory issues that could have an impact on your members in 2019?
RB: The biggest issue that likely will impact the Federated membership in 2019 is tariffs and, therefore, we are following that situation very closely. Clearly, areas such as pricing and market growth will be impacted both short-term and long-term, depending on the duration and scope of the tariffs.
The state of the economy has a large effect on the market, including employment levels, GDP and fuel prices. We also will follow industry and political issues regarding vehicle repair data and information ownership, as these matters are important to the long-term health of the auto care industry.