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.
Here’s our Q&A with Larry Pavey, CEO of the Automotive Parts Services Group (The Group):
CM: We’re at the halfway point of 2019. Could you reflect on The Group’s accomplishments and highlights from the first half of the year?
LP: This year, The Group has continued to focus on creating value for our members and supplier partners. We have worked on every aspect of our business where collaboration can create improvement, and we will continue to focus on those initiatives.
For example, with continued technical advancements impacting our members, customers and suppliers, we believe it is essential to invest in training and information resources. The Group Training Academy is the perfect vehicle to deliver technical support, and we recently have added more valuable content and capabilities for shops, stores and suppliers. Latest enhancements include new exclusive content, search capabilities, new supplier additions and multiple language capabilities, along with a complete schedule of monthly webinars. In addition, we continue to provide full curriculum support capabilities and have made The Group Training Academy program ultra-affordable for our best customers. We have also included a robust product benefit and feature section that serves as a single source of information for counter personnel and service writers so they can better understand and sell the premium products provided by our valued supplier partners.
We held our second fully combined membership meeting in March with record attendance and participation. The meeting focused on future influences that will impact our members, customers and suppliers, such as vehicle technology, connectivity, driver-assist/autonomous systems and other market changes. Sessions were held to cover key aspects of our business and review program additions and enhancements, and we were fortunate to have a major customer share its vision, strategy and future direction with members. Both Federated and Pronto announced exciting marketing programs for 2019 and the combined booth show/conference meetings were expanded to allow for more interaction between members and supplier partners. It was a successful meeting and created a solid foundation for the rest of the year.
CM: What kinds of challenges and opportunities are you seeing in aftermarket distribution this year?
LP: The aftermarket continues to be one of the most exciting industries with the pace of change and innovation in all aspects of the business. While there are certainly challenges in some of the macro issues like tariffs, higher fuel prices, technology, economic growth and lower replacement rates, we see many opportunities for improvement this year. As vehicles become more electronic and complex, there is a need for delivering new information and support for shops and counter personnel. As mentioned before, we are focused on enhancements in The Group Training Academy and delivering more and better information every day.
With the proliferation of models, types and ages of vehicles, inventory challenges continue and the development of tools to improve effectiveness of investment grows more important. Use of the internet and leveraging technology provides enhanced opportunities and continues to be an area of focus for The Group. Supporting professional customers’ needs remains an opportunity as we are dedicated to providing them with the best products and services possible. Strengthening connectivity throughout the entire supply chain with more visibility and interaction will increase effectiveness and reduce costs, and continues to be a priority. Our service-center programs are designed to provide our best customers with the effective marketing and support necessary to be successful in today’s marketplace.
CM: What’s on The Group’s agenda for the second half of the year?
LP: The Group will continue to work on behalf of all Pronto and Federated members to strengthen support and opportunities in the second half of the year. This means a continued focus on training and education to provide information efficiently and effectively. We are working to improve the purchasing and supplier approval process as we look to streamline and work closer with supplier partners who provide higher potential through performance. We will focus on customer needs and continue to offer enhanced support in all the areas where we collaborate, including national accounts, electronic catalog and ordering, PIES/price data, training, Co-Man warehouse and many other areas where we are working together effectively and efficiently. These items continue to be main areas of focus, and we will continue to enhance those efforts on an ongoing basis.
CM: Anything you’d like to add?
LP: In the near-term, our industry will experience many challenges and opportunities, and we believe members of The Group are well-positioned for success. We are focused on the best distributors providing the highest-quality, brand-name products from the best suppliers at competitive prices with outstanding service and support. We continue to focus on efficient, productive, cost-effective initiatives and are always looking to improve. We are proud to work with some of the best companies in the aftermarket and look forward to continued success well into the future.