Posts Tagged ‘Parts Unlimited’

Fred Fox: Aftermarket Upturn Has Started

August 22, 2010

MADISON, Wis — The U.S. powersports aftermarket is past the bottom of the current recession, but it’s likely that there could be continued consolidation and contraction of dealers and aftermarket suppliers, says Fred Fox, chairman of LeMans Corp. The company owns Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties, two of the country’s leading powersports distributors, and services more than 9,000 North American dealers. It also operates a European distribution operation based in Trier, Germany.

Fred Fox

Fox made his comments here Saturday, at the company’s annual National Vendor Presentation (NVP). More than 150 suppliers and an estimated 400 dealers are expected to participate in the five-day event, up from last year.

Fox touched on a number of topics in his state-of-the-industry address and in private comments with me during the show, including:

  • LOW POINT ECONOMICALLY. “I think we’re past the low part of the (recession) curve, as far as the aftermarket is concerned. Most of our sales reps are reporting positive attitudes and encouraging comments in their dealer stores,” he said. When people don’t buy new, they tend to fix up the old, he added.
  • SALES ACTIVITY. Fox said that sales at LeMans were “good” in July and sales “look good” for August, too. He didn’t provide numbers, however, and declined to provide sales figures for the year, which ends in September. He told the audience that dealers in the Sturgis, SD, area and vendors that displayed at the recent rally reported strong attendance and excellent sales.
  • EUROPEAN BUSINESS. The company distributes about 100 brands in Europe and expects to increase this to about 150 brands by next spring. Parts opened its $38 million warehouse in Trier last August. The four-tier facility  covers 177,600 square feet and has inventory worth about $10 million.
  • SUPPLIER CONSOLIDATIONS. A number of suppliers are re-evaluating their future now that the important summer season is winding down and they are facing the slow fall season. Weak cash flow and tightened bank credit are causing some problems, he said. “A few are going to be quitting,” Fox told an audience of suppliers and media representatives.  But he told the audience that he is prepared to assist selected companies when possible. For more than 40 years, Fox has developed a history of fostering mergers among suppliers and of providing individual companies with flexible purchasing programs during slow periods. “If anybody here says,  “The bank is about to call my note one of these days,’ and you need help with that, don’t be afraid to call,” he told the vendor audience.
  • DISTRIBUTORS. Fox said that some competing distributors are using price-cutting business models aimed at cash-strapped dealers. “The thing that scares us,” he said, “is that these distributors, who are selling only on price, aren’t helping the dealers and they aren’t helping you,” he told the suppliers. “More pins in the map doesn’t mean more sales for your product,” he told them, suggesting that loyalty and quality service is more important than adding additional outlets.
  • DISTRIBUTOR CONSIGNMENT PROGRAMS. Fox vehemently denied rumors that Parts/Drag is testing consignment programs in selected dealerships.  “No, absolutely not,” he said, regarding consignment programs at LeMans. “It’s not in our playbook. Consignment is for product that is selling poorly or for stuff you can’t sell. It’s a mistake. We don’t have one nickel’s worth (of product) out there (on consignment). It will not happen in this company.“ Fox said there’s a simple reason for the no-consignment policy at LeMans: “We want the guy to have first class product and have an investment in his business. If you offer consignment, you’re betting on defeat. If a guy has one helmet over here that he’s paid for, and one over there that’s on consignment, guess which one he wants to sell.”  Also, he said, the tactic tends to prop up weak dealers and keeps them going against the good dealers in the area. “If you fill up your store with obsolete product that doesn’t move and then give it back and get some more obsolete stuff that doesn’t move, that’s a bad idea.”

The show ends today. “Attendance has been up from last year,” said Fox, “and the mood among dealers and suppliers I’ve talked with has been excellent.”  JD

Contact me with story ideas and news tips at
jdelmont@dealernews.com or 952/893-6876.

I Have Returned from Vacation

August 9, 2010

Joe Delmont

It’s always great to be on vacation, but it’s nice to be back, too. I’ve recently spent the better part of two weeks vacationing on a lake in northern Wisconsin with my wife, Bobbie, the three kids, Steve, Bryan, and Kate, and four grandkids. I golfed, read three novels, played with the grandkids, and spent too much time with a big, ol’ black Lab mutt named Jimmy, who visited every day. Jimmy is the only dog I every knew who retrieved rocks. That’s rocks, as in stones, big stones, that he would dig out of the bottom of the lake and then drop at your feet with a big, wet grin. Obviously, Jimmy doesn’t know the difference between a rock and a tennis ball.

Summer’s a busy time anyway, even without a vacation in the north woods. My wife and I have picked up two days of babysitting for the grandkids on Tuesday and Wednesday to save them some day care dollars. Four little bundles of energy, ranging from seven months to six years, each wanting lots of attention involving library visits (good), swimming lessons at the neighbor’s pool (not so good), and trips to the local kiddy park with juice and snacks (bad).

OK, I know I’ve said I want to spend time with the new generation, but it’s difficult to keep up. Bobbie and I don’t remember how we raised three kids of our own. Must have been some grandparents heavily involved in that schedule.

Story Backlog
At any rate, I’m back at the keyboard, and I’m looking at a stack of story notes. Tucker Rocky. Baja Motorsports. ITC’s investigation of intellectual property rights. CFMOTO’s suit against EPA. And a couple of other industry stories based upon research from Power Products Marketing, the Minneapolis research firm, plus my column for September Dealernews and the Dealer Lab report on Bill Shenk’s June performance—another profitable month.  I’m also heading to the Parts Unlimited show in Janesville and visiting the new Baja headquarters at the complex of its parent company TTI in Anderson, SC, at the end of the month.

And suddenly it’s September. Where has the year gone? JD

Contact me with story ideas and news tips at
jdelmont@dealernews.com or 612/845-8091.

Vendors That Compete Against Their Own Dealers

October 18, 2009

BrokenChainWhy has the industry allowed so many vendors to compete against their own dealers through online sales? Shouldn’t everyone respect the supply channel? Or do some vendors have legitimate reasons for selling directly?

Two years ago, I was attending an annual meeting of MIC members when a guest speaker told the 200 assembled vendors that they all should be selling online. “The most important way for the aftermarket to sell is the Internet,” the market analyst said. “Companies used to be worried about how it would affect their retail establishments. That way of thinking has gone by the wayside.”

This comment surprised me. When the analyst asked for questions, I asked whether he believed motorcycle dealers in particular no longer cared whether their suppliers sold directly. He gave a quick affirmative and left the stage.

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The Good and Bad of MAP Policies

October 9, 2009

Low_Price_Guarantee[1]As PG&A inventories remain bloated, the dangers of heavy discounting mount. Brands take a wallop once their suggested retail prices become a running joke on eBay. To combat this, we’ve long had minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policies.

But dealers have mixed feelings about these policies. Some dealers don’t like them, period. The market should dictate prices, they say. Most dealers like the idea of MAP pricing, but they hate the policies of specific vendors or distributors. Or, perhaps more often, they resent policies that aren’t strictly enforced.

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Wanted: Copy Editor

February 6, 2009

Has anyone else noticed the photo used on Parts Unlimited’s 2009 Street Catalog features a rider in a Speed & Strength jacket?

I visited Hitching Post, my local dealership, this morning to kick some tires and talk shop. The dealership received its 2009 PU Street catalog yesterday. The PG&A guys thought I’d be interested in the cover art. I was.

Speed & Strength is a new apparel brand from Tucker Rocky Distributing.