Throughout the year, we've informed you about the continued growth of OE dealer parts market share at independent repair shops across the country. These independent repair shops have been the "sacred cow" of the traditional aftermarket parts distributor. However, all indications are that this is becoming less a sacred cow and more the fertile grazing ground for OE dealers. And part of the blame rests squarely with the aftermarket.
The increasing competition for independent installer business is certainly nothing new. For years we've been hearing about (and humorously dismissing) OE attempts to infiltrate the aftermarket. However, one cannot ignore the cold, hard facts. In this year's PARTS Supplement (which was polybagged with last month's issue) we charted sourcing trends from independent installers who told us that they are turning more and more often to OE dealers. An analysis of the overall research indicates that over the last three years, OE dealers have increased their market share by some 2.5 percent. That's not necessarily an alarming figure - today. Market share is rarely lost over night. It gets eroded, slowly, two-and-a-half points at a time.
My question is this: Are we losing some independent shop sales to the OE dealers because of slick marketing, non-competitive pricing or unavailable parts? Or, are we driving the independents to the OE dealer by simply muttering a phrase that has a much greater negative impact than its innocent tone might indicate? The phrase, "That's a dealer item" may be at least partially to blame for any market share penetration that OE dealers may be enjoying right now. That's a difficult thing to admit.
I'm not trying to be an alarmist. I'm merely pointing out this trend to make a very critical point to store sales professionals across the country. The point is this: Please, at all costs, refrain from using the term "That's a dealer item."
When did the independent aftermarket stop locating parts for their customers (regardless of how hard it is to find certain items)? When did the aftermarket stop taking care of its own? It used to be that when a call came in for a difficult or hard-to-find part, the counterperson would begin the task of locating that part wherever it may be around town or around the country.
When did this function cease? When returns policies started getting abused? When margins started to crumble? When installer loyalty became compromised? Sure, all those are good reasons. But, they're not good enough.
Installers are a fickle bunch, to be sure. But they're our fickle bunch and not the OE's. When you expose a fickle customer to a whole new world of opportunity by muttering that horrible phrase, "That's a dealer item," you are essentially inviting them to try the competition.
Have the OEs near you called to thank you for the recommendations you've been making on their behalf? It's not really a dealer item. It's your opportunity to service your customer!