Engage customers, inventory to compete with e-commerce: Aftermarket VIP panel

Publish Date: 
Feb 16, 2013
By Dennis Johnson

DEALER EXPO, Indianapolis, Ind. – Dealers will have to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment that’s largely influenced by the rapid rise of e-commerce.

That means stocking plenty of inventory. Forming the kind of warm and fuzzy customer relationships that can’t be developed over the Internet. Simply accepting that ecommerce sales are standard business practice.

PHOTO: Bob Weber, Craig Shoemaker, Steve Johnson, Adam Redford and Jared Burt debate the future of aftermarket sales with host Eric Anderson during the Dealernews SuperSession: Rebuilding Retail, held Feb. 16 at Dealer Expo in Indianapolis. Photo by Gary Rohman

“You need to learn to live with this, because it’s not going away,” said WPS President Craig Shoemaker at Saturday’s Super Session on the future of aftermarket sales. “There’s room for everybody, and we have to realize that.”

Relying on overnight shipping from a distributor can help a retailer without the resources (or will) to have a deep inventory; but it’s not a long-term solution.

“I think it’s so important for dealers to rely less on overnight delivery and more on stocking items,” said Steve Johnson, retired president of Tucker Rocky Distributing. “It’s important to stay strong in terms of stocking, to have inventory when people come in. To walk away and abdicate delivery to the distributors is only going to chase customers to the competition.”

Johnson and Shoemaker joined Jared Burt, owner of Rexburg Powersports in Rexburg, Idaho; Adam Redford of Twisted Throttle; and Bob Weber, the man behind the new 6D helmet brand on the VIP panel hosted by Eric Anderson.

Burt said that his dealership stocks heavily on PG&A. “It’s so easy [for customers] to buy online,” he explained. “You’re not going to win that fight. You have to have a color they like, and you have to have the right fit. You have to have the inventory.” Rexburg, a Top 100 Dealer, devotes 30 percent of the show floor to PG&A.

Brick-and-mortar stores have a huge advantage, said Redford of Twisted Throttle (a distributor, manufacturer and retailer of products aimed at the adventure touring market). Dealers have the ability to press the flesh and form real relationships. They can hold fun events that put them in the middle of their local riding community. “If we’re befriending our customers, we’re doing ourselves the best service,” he said. (Continued)