The Shadetree Mechanic and the Automotive Aftermarket
“My car is 11 years old. It’s the perfect car for me – right size, right amount of power, right technology. I take good care of it, and it takes good care of me,” says Jeffrey Alan, a southern California resident and owner of a mid-size sport utility vehicle. He’s on-trend: According to an AutoMD study, U.S.-owned vehicles are now an average of 11 years old, an increase in age of 17% over the past ten years. AutoMD also examined Americans’ DIY car maintenance tendencies. Many car owners began doing their own maintenance – oil changes, for example – out of financial necessity, but surprisingly, they continue doing DIY maintenance even when they can afford to switch to DIFM (Do It For Me).
For the automotive aftermarket, this is all very good news, translating into greater sales volume for the aftermarket sector. The longer a car is on the road, the more aftermarket parts it will need. The more vehicle owners who do their own work, the greater the aftermarket retail sales. And automotive aftermarket retail has attractively high margins.
Like other retailers, aftermarket enterprises are adding e-tail to their brick and mortar operations as a way to increase sales and profits without major increases in overhead. And like other e-tailers, jobbers are learning that an “out of stock” message is unacceptable to online buyers. Online retail requires a new approach to inventory management.
Every retailer knows that efficiency and accuracy are vital to inventory management. Efficiency – maximizing your available resources – is like driving at the optimal speed to get to the finish line without running out of gas. In retail terms, efficiency means optimizing storage space. Vertical lifts, multi-level racks, and high-density shelving let retailers make the best use of every inch of their storage space. As online sales drive the expansion of inventory, efficient storage systems offset the need to expand the storage footprint. That’s an overhead win.
Hand in hand with efficiency is accurate information – knowing what’s in stock and how fast it’s moving. It’s like defensive driving: You keep your eyes on the road ahead, you check your mirrors, and you anticipate what other drivers are about to do. An RFID inventory system delivers accurate information about quantities and locations so retailers never miss a sales opportunity.
But jobbers should take note: Unlike shadetree auto repair, do-it-yourself inventory storage is rarely cost-effective. As automotive aftermarket retailers move into the e-tail fast lane, an experienced storage consultant is a key part of the team.
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