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Looking Back, Looking Forward

The more things change in the automotive distribution business, the more they stay the same.


There’s much talk these days about mass merchandisers stealing business away from the wholesaler – the untraditional versus the traditional as some might express it."

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For some, this quote rings true. There has been much talk about the effects national retailers have had on the traditional store. So much so that some, possibly including the originator of the above quote, predict the demise of the traditional store.

The problem is, this is a quote from 1967. It appeared in Warehouse Distributor News, the magazine that eventually morphed into Counterman.

Why all this nostalgia? During the years that Ive been with this magazine, Ive often heard readers tell me that theyve read Counterman since its very first issue. Thats really saying something since, with this issue, I am proud to say that Counterman has been published for 20 years. I am also proud that this magazine has been able to create a community of loyal readers over the past two decades.


As we celebrated this milestone, I wanted to take a bit of a historical perspective. I went back and looked at the last 20 years of Counterman issues, as well as Warehouse Distributor News, which was published between 1967 and 1985. These back issues provide a very interesting peak into the past of a very interesting and always dynamic industry.

In looking through these past issues, I came to one conclusion: that even though there have been drastic changes in the automotive aftermarket, many things have remained the same.

Even in Countermans first year of publication, writers were discussing the problems associated with discounting, unstandardized cataloging entries, the idiosyncrasies of computerized cataloging, warranty woes, increasing automotive technology and inventory management.


And today, 20 years later, these same topics come up time and time again. Many of these same topics are even listed in this years list of Top 10 Distribution Influences.

Finally, Id like to include one more quote. In the magazines very first issue, Counterman writer Brack Harriman wrote, "Think about how much the customer relies on you. You are the person who tells him what goes where, how and why. You are the man with the answers. You are the person who can tell a do-it-yourselfer how to change his oil, or tell an installer the right part for a 1941 Packard 120. You are a professional counterman. You are the final link in the distribution chain. Without you, parts and products are just inventory."


Its nice to see that some things never change.

On behalf of the entire staff at Counterman, Id like to wish everyone who works in the distribution business a safe and happy holiday season.

Also, congratulations go out to Counterman staffer Melanie Deitch, who was recently promoted to Managing Editor. Congratulations, Melanie!

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