Keystone News

Pros Weigh In On Growth Opportunities At SEMA Show 2016

Where else can you spend four days wowed by outrageous custom vehicles and celebrity appearances, as well as rub shoulders with more than 2,400 exhibiting manufacturers and 60,000-plus domestic and international buyers? The SEMA Show, of course!

As the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world, SEMA provides retailers and restylers with the convenience of having many industry influencers under one roof and the freedom to explore those brands without an obligation to purchase on site.

Aftermarket manufacturers and OEMs are eager to woo attendees with vehicles and products that showcase excellence in engineering, fabrication, and design, and they spare no expense unveiling the next generation of innovative concepts. In fact, more than 2,500 newly introduced parts, tools and components will be on display in the New Products Showcase this year. These benefits lie at the feet of attendees as means to bolster sales, profit, diversification and relationship-building opportunities throughout the year.

So it goes without saying that a retailer or restyler’s attendance offers many benefits that far exceed a few days on the Show floor. Ron DiVincenzo, general manager of Cap World in Melrose, Mass., urges people to attend the SEMA Show with a sense of purpose. “Be ready to engage. Otherwise, you will wander the Show floor aimlessly in awe of everything you see. Vegas is a fun town, but don’t forget why you are there. Use this as a time to network with your peers, and be a sponge, soaking up everything you possibly can,” he said.

Keystone Automotive Operations -- the leading and largest wholesale distributor of specialty aftermarket parts and equipment in North America -- is a proud SEMA member and Show exhibitor for more than 20 years. To provide retailers and restylers with some veteran guidance and words of wisdom while attending the SEMA Show, Keystone teamed up with a few seasoned industry professionals. Here’s what they had to say.

 

Speaking From Experience

Kathryn Reinhardt, MagnaFlow marketing manager and 2015 SEMA Person of the Year

- The New Products Showcase is a great place to start. This is where all the manufacturers dream of winning the best new product of the year and hope to impress buyers with the next best thing.

- Attend the manufacturers’ press conferences, which are no longer just for press. Get the inside scoop, witness car unveilings and hear about new products and new partnerships.

- Consider going to the LTAA media day on Monday, Oct. 31, (open to registered media only) to see some of the top manufacturers’ products before the show even begins. It’s an ideal time to have those one-on-one talks that sometimes can’t happen on the Show floor.

- Attend after-hours events! Tuesday, Nov. 1 is the YEN reception, Wednesday is the LTAA reception and Thursday is the SEMA Banquet. All are sponsored by SEMA with drinks and food, and all are prime places to meet rising stars in the industry.

 

Ryan Herman, executive VP, Extang, TruXedo, Advantage Truck Accessories, Retrax and BAK

- Each retailer and restyler should take stock in his or her business and be perceptive of new opportunities to grow. What areas are doing well? What areas could use help? Are there any new trends to consider?

- Once pen is to paper and there is a set plan for attending, then make sure to review the itinerary carefully. Really consider the companies that are most important to visit and be sure to allow enough time to talk to the right people.

- Pack a snack when taking time to visit the New Products Showcase -- there are an awful lot of great products to see!

- Consider bringing an empty suitcase to hold all of the materials gathered during the Show, or bring some pre-printed FedEx or UPS forms and envelopes to ship the materials home/to the store each evening.

- Bring plenty of business cards and be sure to collect just as many from those you meet along the way!

 

Maximizing Your Show Experience

George Lathouris, director of U.S. sales, Keystone Automotive Operations

- Get on the SEMA Show website and make sure to identify who is an absolute must, to connect with and where the companies are located. Then schedule appointments accordingly by hall to ensure face-to-face time with those most important to your business. This approach avoids wasting precious time walking back and forth between North, South and Central Halls.

- Spend time at the OE manufacturers’ booths to see what platforms they are focusing on and how that affects the aftermarket and a shop’s future business.

- Swipe the SEMA Show (buyer) card to have manufacturers send catalogs after the Show -- carrying all those books can slow anyone down.

 

Kevin Krieg, owner, S&K Speed Racing Equipment, Lindenhurst, NY

- Think about the business goals for attending the Show and stick to the priorities.

- Consider taking a few people, so everyone can spread out and cover as much ground as possible individually. Assign specific tasks to everyone attending within the group and don’t stay at one place too long.

- Plan to be at the Show from day one through the very end -- from the time the doors open until closing in order to maximize the exposure.

- Avoid the Vegas temptation of late nights and drinking at the casinos. Everyone is here to do business -- be ready to strike early, meet up with current vendors to put names with faces, and be open to new things, new lines and new people (to help grow your business).

 

Charlie Card, owner, Vehicle Accessories Inc., Flint, Mich.

- Map out all appointments via the SEMA Show floor plan or the app to maximize time spent on the floor and minimize the time spent walking -- wear good walking shoes!

- Go to the receptions that match up to your business (LTAA, PRO, WTC, etc.). Get involved and meet people who know the industry.

- Don't discount the importance of training classes and seminars.

- Failing to consider crossover products will cost any shop additional business. Being open to diversification doesn’t mean changing one’s core competency -- just complement it!

 

Additional Facts

According to SEMA:

80% of attendees are primarily interested in seeing new products.

78% of attendees want to ignite ideas.

72% of attendees are set on keeping up with trends.

60 percent and 65 percent of attendees respectively want to connect with existing customers or seek new vendor partnerships.

 

What Keystone Is Up To At SEMA

Visit the Keystone team and its affiliate booths for a chance to win a prize!

Keystone Automotive Operations: Central Hall, Booth 21249

FX Products: South Hall, Booth 34091

FX Vehicle: Outside South Hall, Space 542

Coast to Coast: South Hall, Booth 33091

 

Keystone's George Lathouris shares his 38 years of experience, and discusses the growing Jeep® market

Industry veteran and 2013 SEMA Person of the Year George Lathouris has vast experience in the off-road market. Specifically, the knowledge he has acquired about all things Jeep® make him an asset to the Keystone category management and sales teams, as well as to the industry at large. Here he shares some of his 38 years of industry wisdom.

Q: The Jeep® market is always bumping, so what makes this year any different?

Lathouris: First, the Jeep® network just continues to broaden as more and more mainstream consumers get involved. Second, high-quality products are in and low-quality products are out. Retailers and restylers stand behind trusted brands. Consumers want the brand names that look good and last longer, so they’re willing to spend bigger bucks for the quality upgrades. Third, adaptability is a huge trend. Consumers want products that accommodate multiple lifestyles, from convertible tops and safari doors to exterior cargo management.

Q: How do you help your sales team stay abreast of the ever-changing and ever-growing Jeep® market?

Lathouris: We encourage key manufacturers to conduct sales training in our call centers regularly. We promote national, regional and community Jeep® events, and support our associates’ attendance. We recently joined the Off Road Business Association (ORBA) to get more engaged in this ever-growing marketplace. We also have a teacher-pupil model in the call centers, so those who are considered experts in the Jeep® and off road market segment serve as educators to their peers -- the go-to person about all things Jeep®.

Q: Do you ever anticipate an end to the Jeep® craze?

Lathouris: No. It’ll continue to provide growth for the aftermarket. Introducing the new JK with the four-door option in 2007 changed the dynamic, providing families with a fun and functional vehicle, and Jeep® with explosive sales growth. It’s attractive, versatile and now a family-friendly option that has expanded Jeep®’s reach. It’s added new wind in their sails. In addition to the expanding first and second owner JK market, the TJs are highly desirable for many off road enthusiasts. So the aftermarket potential will truly be a long term ride for all of us.

 

Jeep® Is More Than Just A Brand -- It’s A Lifestyle

Seventy-five years and still going strong, we salute an iconic brand that made its debut as a wartime hero and successfully transitioned from battlefield performance to an alluring lifestyle, both on- and off-road. It’s fascinating how something so utilitarian simultaneously represents individuality, empowerment and adventure, evoking a sense of pride and unity among a community of diehard loyalists, while maintaining its exclusive status. All because they’ve managed to sell a lifestyle, not a product.

Few execute at the level of Jeep® and even fewer brands balance a global impact with social responsibility. The current tag line -- “We Don’t Make Jeep®. You Do” -- is a humbling nod to loyalists around the world, because anything is possible behind the wheel of a Jeep®.

Jeep® has succeeded both quantitatively and qualitatively, from global brand recognition to impressive unit sales and more. In 2015, Fiat Chrysler reported a record-breaking year. Not only were annual sales up seven percent, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth, but Jeep models also increased 42 percent collectively, experienced unprecedented sales in the U.S., and had its best December to date.

Jeep® steamrolled into 2016 and drove FCA profits during the first quarter. An impressive 15 percent year-over-year sales gain marked 72-plus months in an upward trajectory, with Wrangler continuing to lead the way. Yet, the sales are merely a profitable byproduct of an even bigger feat. Jeep® has evolved into an international phenomenon with significant influence over consumer demand, touting a rugged appeal that transcends societal demographics.

What makes the Jeep® such a commanding consumer purchase? In part, its ability to attract everyone from mainstream consumers and general car enthusiasts to outdoor lifestylers and hardcore rock crawlers, commented industry veteran George Lathouris, Keystone’s director of U.S. sales. “Until 2007,”said Corby Phillips, Warn Industries’ national sales manager, “we were accustomed to the 2-door sport utility of Jeep®s of the past,” which had a more limited consumer base. “With the release of the JK 4-door, it appealed to a whole new buyer,” he added. “You now see more women than ever piloting their own JK and jumping into the lifestyle. The new Jeep® platform offers extra space and convenience, and truly marks a new era for the brand.”

For an insider look at the current ins and outs of the Jeep® market, Keystone, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of aftermarket parts in North America, teamed up with some of its customers, sales associates and accessory manufacturers.

Why Jeep®?Jeeping ni Moab

Racecar aficionado Enzo Ferrari once said, "Jeep® is America's only real sports car." It’s true, kind of. Synonymous with freedom, the Jeep® brand is an experience, an adventure. It offers enthusiasts a similar thrill in a top-back, doors-off, monster-truck tires sort of way, but is exhilarating nonetheless. “Jeep®s are a fun vehicle to drive, plain and simple. It’s a vehicle that’s easily accessible to consumers, and it’s a highly customizable option that truly offers something for everyone, whether someone is building it to tackle Moab trails or just wants to take the doors off, add a bikini top and cruise,” said Ryan Osborne, off-road enthusiast and Keystone sales associate in Greensboro, NC. There are no limitations to its appeal, and that alone spells cash for retailers and restylers.

Ricky Artes, owner of Jeepers Den, Orlando, Florida, has been living the Jeep® lifestyle since 1995 and transformed his hobby into a business venture in 2003. The rest is history. Jeepers Den is booked solid for months at a time and experiences double-digit growth every year. While it’s a Jeep® specialty shop, Artes and his team can fix or customize any vehicle. “We believe in doing business the right way. We’re honest, provide great customer service, treat people kindly, and build awesome Jeeps,” said Artes.

Why Diversify?

There are very few shops that operate within a silo anymore. Modern means smart diversification to increase inventory margins and bolster profit potential. Archie’s Off Road & Performance Center in Wells, ME, has been thriving for 34 years. The company quickly learned the benefits of diversification during the 2008 economic downturn, rounding out its offerings in retail, enhancing installation capabilities and taking advantage of market trends, such as the steady and reliable Jeep business. “The Jeep® market has grown tremendously, and we don't see it changing any time soon, as Jeep® is the number-one accessorized vehicle in the market,” said owners Archie and Julie Stevens. “They have done a great job continuously reinventing the brand to appeal to a wide variety of consumers. You can have a hardcore off-road Jeep®, one that dominates at the drag strip, appeals to a pavement princess, rides at the beach or pleases a soccer Mom.”

What’s Hot?

Rapto Worx HandlesHow many products and at what cost to build a rig that can withstand the assault of harsh landscapes? Accessorizing a Jeep® doesn’t need to be a tug of war between quantity versus quality. “The brands and products continue to evolve, but the main, core focus of the Jeep® market remains the same,” said Rhonda Pilto, a West Coast-based Keystone sales associate. And this consistency offers retailers and restylers a level of stability when investing in inventory.

Keystone offers its customers access to hundreds of aftermarket manufacturers that produce quality products at an affordable price point and for those who want the premium treatment, well, they have that too!

Archie’s Off Road purchases plenty of JKS, Fab Fours, Pro Comp, ReadyLIFT, Mickey Thompson, Toyo, Super Swampers, Skyjacker, Smittybilt, WARN, Crown Automotive, Hypertech, Superchips, Edge, Magnaflow, MBRP, K&N and aFe from Keystone. Jeepers Den kicks out its fair sharBestop Sunrider Tope of TeraFlex, Factor 55, Rancho, BOLT high-lift mounts and fender flares of various brands. “Lifts, wheels, tires, bumpers and LED lighting continue to drive Jeep® aftermarket sales for my customers in the Upper Plains region,” said Jeff Grega, a Keystone sales associate with experience in the Northeast and Midwest regions. “But one of my favorite new products is the Bestop Sunrider, which is an all-weather replacement for bulky freedom panels on factory hardtops.”

Keystone’s Osborne agreed that Bestop’s new product is a game changer. “We anticipate this to be a hot seller in the Southeast areas, states that see sunny weather most times, but benefit from having a hard top (during) some poor conditions throughout the year.” In Texas, it’s go big or go home. “Texas continues to knock out the 3.5-inch lift and 35-inch tire option as its go-to, or adding flat fender flares to get even larger tires stuffed under their rigs,” said Erich Ross, Texas-based Keystone sales manager. “LED headlight replacements are still very popular as well, and I think Jeep® owners are always looking for new and innovative ways to carry bicycles, kayaks, etc. to promote their outdoor lifestyle, so cargo-management options are important, too.”

So how do aftermarket manufacturers produce game-changing products year after year? “Rugged Ridge is always in motion to remain successful,” said Northeast Sales Manager Ray Weaver. “Everyone from marketing to engineering contributes and everyone shares in the company’s success. We’re not afraid to try new things and if something isn’t working, we’re not afraid to change course either. Our new C3 Cargo Cover, Exo-Top and stamped steel bumpers are unique, functional and give the consumers what they want.”

Why Merchandise?

As Jeep® gears up for its 2017-2018 launch, aftermarket manufacturers are ready to pump out even more dynamic product. “New models always represent a sales opportunity and Jeep® will be introducing a redesigned Wrangler soon. Our engineers already are implementing a strategy so that Rugged Ridge can be first to market with several products,” said Weaver. “One nice thing about the Wranglers is they pass through several owners, each wanting to add their own modifications. As a manufacturer, distributor, retailer or restyler, this offers several bites of the apple so to speak,” he added.

Failing to merchandise a showroom properly can result in missed opportunities with new and repeat consumers. Keystone’s Pilto believes in the power of displays, always reminding her customers about the importance of allowing consumers to use their senses to interact with the product they want to purchase.

“Displays sell product! They trigger a consumer response since they can look, touch and judge the quality right in front of them. When consumers shop online or out of a catalog, they have to rely on pictures, descriptions and reviews,” said WARN’s Phillips.

It’s also a perfect opportunity to upsell, he added. “If you’re selling a WARN winch, then merchandise winching accessories near the winch display and help a Jeep® consumer make the most of their purchase. WARN offers a rigging/accessory bag that comes with a snatch block, 2 d-ring shackles, an 8’ tree strap, winching gloves and a 30’ tow strap -- everything they need to get unstuck!”

Jeep® -- An Aftermarket Game Changer

Shop owners and aftermarket manufacturers that continue to engineer, market and sell quality products perpetuate the success of the Jeep® brand. Continue to ensure generation after generation of Jeepers have access to the most innovative aftermarket products, so they can trail blaze an individualized path and explore, pushing boundaries both on- and off-road.

 

  • 6/27/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • Sherman Goldenberg

Exeter, PA.-based Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. (KAO) had previously announced the opening of its sprawling, 360,000-square-foot Brownstown, Mich., warehouse, which has been shipping parts and accessories orders to independent automotive retailers and RV parts and accessories clients since last fall. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com page linked above).

But the company’s new “Great Lakes Warehouse” got a more public initiation on Saturday (June 25) when Keystone, led by several senior executives, welcomed more than 100 customers for a casual meet-and-greet session plus lunch and tours of the facility just south of metropolitan Detroit after which attendees joined the “Keystone Team” for a Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians baseball game.

Also in attendance were a handful of supplier exhibitors, including bed-cover maker Truck Hero Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., and hitch manufacturer Cequent Performance Products Inc., Plymouth, Mich.

KAO’s Brownstown facility, now one of seven key warehouses positioned nationally for a company that bills itself as the world’s largest automotive parts and accessories distributor, is designed to service primary Brownstown Open Housecross-dock fulfillment locations in places like Akron, Ohio, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Mich., and to speed deliveries throughout the north-central U.S. and parts of Ontario.

“I think the most important thing for us to get across is that we’ve always serviced this region as a company,” explained George Lathouris, director of U.S. automotive sales for KAO, a unit of Chicago-based LKQ Corp. “But we needed this facility and the inventory that’s inside it to do a better job here because of the growth and expansion that we’ve been experiencing as an organization. We just needed more square footage.

“So, instead of adding onto an existing facility, we put our merchandise closer to the customer, so they’re getting great order fill – quickly without a lot of transferring – coming right out of this facility directly to their stores.”

And while a clear majority of Keystone’s business is automotive — as were most of Saturday’s open house guests — KAO spokesmen indicate they’ve made a lot of progress lately in integrating the RV parts and accessories businesses added over the past two to three years with the acquisitions of North America’s three largest two-step RV distributors, including Oregon-based NTP Distribution Inc., Atlanta’s Stag-Parkway Inc. and, last August, The Coast Distribution System Inc., Morgan Hill, Calif.

In fact, Lathouris told RVBUSINESS.com that RV dealer parts and accessories deliveries are now part and parcel of KAO’s daily routine, with many delivery trucks now fitted with large “cannon tubes” for handling RV awnings and moldings. And, he noted, the overall impact has been a positive for a business built on volume deliveries across the country.

“I think it’s been great for the (overall Keystone) organization because it gives us the opportunity to offer varied products and, let’s just say, frequency of delivery because the increased volume in the organization gives us the opportunity to service all of our customers better – more cross-docks, more trucks, more inventory, more people,” said Lathouris, who’s based out of Corona, Calif. “It’s a situation where we can take care of more customers in a more effective fashion.”

Now that the integration of NTP and STAG has been completed, the main order of business on the RV side is to finish off the same process with Coast, a process that, according to John Ruch, vice president of fulfillment and logistics, should be finished in six months to a year.

“We’ve integrated or are in the process of integrating 13 of Coast’s 17 buildings,” said Ruch. “The four that are left are Fort Worth, Texas, Atlanta, Elkhart, Ind., and Visalia, Calif. And we’re going to continue through the rest of the year looking to see where we can provide better customer service by combining deliveries on our trucks and getting products more quickly out to our customers. We’re going to continue to integrate where we can, so there’s really no plan solidified yet on dates or anything. But we’ll just look to continue to provide that better customer service. By having everything consolidated, you have better inventory, better cut times and more consistent deliveries.”

Bottom line, Lathouris and Ruch agreed, RV parts and accessories are now part and parcel of what KAO does on a regular basis at all seven of its main warehouses.

“Our true value proposition is we take many different products, put them on one delivery truck and for one fee we drop off — one item or 20 items – a small part of the truck or the entire truck – for one fee — and the merchandise can come from any one of our seven locations direct to the customer,” said Lathouris. “The fact that it may be large and bulky and we can get it there so efficiently, I think, is some of the magic that we offer to the customer base. I think it’s worth noting.”

 

  • 6/14/2016 12:00:00 AM

CORONA, CA - There is nothing more indicative of summer than eating a burger.  Unless, you’re eating that burger riding shotgun in a souped up ride!  Here at Keystone, we always feel the need for speed (and burgers!) so Tuesday, June 14th we invited employees, manufacturers and customers to our Corona, Ca offices for a little supercharged fun in the sun. 

Our partners at Magnaflow, Edelbrock, Energy Suspension, MGP Calipers, Powermaster, KW Suspension, Hypertech and Belltech came together with their show trailers and booths, while Customers and employees walked the show listening to dynamic sales training and new product tutorials.  Edelbrock even spun some of them around in their Supercharged Mustang, courtesy of Ken Schuck and KAM Marketing.

Ben Chase, regional Sales Rep, along with George Lathouris, Director of Sales, and John Grier, West Coast Sales Manager, gave customers a tour of the California offices and warehouse.   Chase said the event was a major success, noting the great deal of customer and supplier interaction.

The local community came out to support.  Very special thanks to The Habit Burger Grill for supplying the delicious burgers and to Thunder from the Lake Elsinore Storm Minor League Baseball Team for entertaining us with his sweet dance moves.

Powersports Industry Offers Retailers And Restylers Increased Profit Potential

Spring is a seasonal gold mine across many aftermarket segments and an ideal opportunity for retailers and restylers to take advantage of increased foot traffic and cash in. There’s certainly no shortage of enthusiast activities to fuel a consumer spending spree.

 

For example:

  • Off-road racing fans are savoring the intensity of a short-course dirt track and tinkering with their own 4x4 parts in the garage
  • The Jeep® community is hitting the trails top-down style, hoping to get stuck and put that premium winch to good use
  • Open-road adventure seekers have their campers in tow, excited to explore the great outdoors
  • Gear heads are making final modifications to get their whips road ready for the summer season

 

But the powersports market, comprised of ATVs, side-by-sides (SxS), motorcycles, powerboats, personal watercraft (PWC), and snowmobiles, has a diehard group of recreational enthusiasts that often is overlooked as a prime target and means for diversification within the aftermarket. It’s a stable industry with healthy margins and a loyal customer base — and retailers and restylers should be tapping into this pool of increased profit potential.

“(Powersports units) need to be towed, hauled or trailered, and you need a truck in order to do that, so there’s strong customer crossover between truck-accessory shops and the powersports market. Keystone offers products for both,” said Tom Gross, a powersports industry veteran of nearly 30 years and owner of Uni Filter, a manufacturer of high-performance polyurethane foam air filters and a top brand choice among serious off-roaders.

Keystone Automotive Operations, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of automotive aftermarket parts in North America, teamed up with two of its valued partners in the powersports industry, Terracross and Uni Filter, to educate retailers and restylers about the current state of business, market trends, crossover and diversification opportunities, as well as profit potential.

Side-by-Sides Leading the Way

Glenice Wilder, VP of Powersports EFG Companies, said the first quarter of the 2016 fiscal year was off to a positive start, as unit sales, dealer profitability, and maintenance service repairs are all trending upwards. But SxS sales are the true story, taking the industry by storm and nearly cannibalizing a once-dominant ATV market. According to Motorcycle & Powersports News, UTV sales are estimated to be in the neighborhood of 400,000 units, which is significantly higher than its ATV counterpart.

“The UTV has become a popular choice among families, sportsmen and off-roaders alike,” said Joe Duncan, owner of Terracross and a 20-year veteran of the industry with extensive experience in the snowmobile and SxS market segments. “It’s an estimated two-billion dollar segment that is expected to nearly double over the next two years. Whereas ATVs are a highly individualized activity, an entire family can enjoy a UTV experience together during all 12 months of the year, and so we’ve seen a shift (in demand),” he said.

Market data suggests that powersports consumers have one of the largest discretionary budgets, spending thousands of dollars on the unit itself and then several thousand more in aftermarket upgrades — not unlike many truck or Jeep consumers who are eager to customize their rig at the point of purchase with LED lighting, side steps, recovery items or front-end protection. “And that discretionary budget doesn’t end there. It includes an increased rate of replacement parts and maintenance service repairs associated with powersports recreation,” explained Duncan.

Do you see dollar signs yet? According to Steve Nessl, Yamaha ATV/SxS group marketing manager, “The SxS market is evolving, and that’s a good thing for dealers and consumers who will have more selling and buying options.” The result: An opportunity for retailers and restylers to attract new customers, diversify their business and share in the powersports profits — from aftermarket upgrades and personal equipment to repair and maintenance products.

Know Thy Market

Duncan of Terracross offered shop owners some candid advice to consider while exploring diversification opportunities in the powersports industry. “Powersports is a specific niche, so you’ve got to know the players, be knowledgeable about the units and aftermarket products, and share a passionate appreciation for the lifestyle,” said Duncan. “First rule of thumb is to know thy market,” he added. “What kind of powersports are in demand within your immediate area? Is there a body of water, a motocross track or trails?

Next, you want to get yourself involved in the local sport — attend an event, sponsor an event, talk to consumers at the event. Pick their brains about what products they’d like to see offered in your shop. You have to know what’s sellable! This is a loyal group of enthusiasts, and if you support them, they’ll support you.” Uni Filter’s Gross also suggested a handful of core products that will always be in demand among powersports users, including maintenance items, such as tires, filters, spark plugs, chains and belts.

Tap Into Sales and Profit Potential

“On average, accessories spending is about $2,000 the minute (customers) buy the (UTV). They may spend $6,000-$7,000 in accessories over the lifetime of the unit. If it’s being used in the racing circuit, guys could be spending $50,000-$60,000 when all is said and done between the engine, tranny and differential work,” said Terracross’ Duncan. “Bottom line, there’s a lot of sales potential and strong margins on powersports products, which help offset some of the margin pressures on the aftermarket side of the business,” added Gross. “Guys are towing their toys, so it’s a natural add-on sale for truck-accessory shops.”

And it doesn’t stop there! Above and beyond accessorizing, ATVs and UTVs virtually assure consistent work for service repair shops. “The rise of SxS sales represents plenty of tire changes, service work, parts and accessories profitability for dealers to cash in on,” reported Motorcycle & Powersports News. This provides retailers and restylers an opportunity to showcase the significant range of skills its technicians have to service crossover consumers in both the aftermarket and powersports industries.

Partner with a Distributor

“We’re always looking to bring on more enthusiasts and expand our powersports network,” said Duncan. But the powersports industry has a strict distribution model, so diversification must be done appropriately. Duncan and Gross suggested that retailers and restylers identify a target segment, conduct preliminary market research to determine what lines and products will best suit the needs of local consumers, and lean on the expertise of key manufacturers within the powersports space to direct them to the right distribution partner. “Keystone is dedicated to expanding the reach of the powersports industry by getting our automotive aftermarket customer base excited about and involved in the market,” said Jason Shatrowskas, Keystone category manager. “We carry dozens of powersports lines, many of them very strong crossover brands that make it an easier transition into this space for our automotive aftermarket customers.”

Diversification doesn’t need to be drastic. It can be as simple as stocking popular maintenance parts or as complex as broad inventory and repair service. Either way, consider the impressive opportunity that awaits. Let Keystone be your go-to team, helping you explore a new market, expand your customer reach and increase your company’s profitability.

 

  • 5/18/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • Harneet Kaur

EXETER, PA – The Automotive Parts Services Group, commonly referred to as The Group, recently presented Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. with the Co-Man of the Year award, a distinguished honor earned by a member who exhibits continued support for and achieves commendable growth with The Group.

Formed through the merging of joint efforts and resources of the Federated and Pronto programs, The Group has established one of the largest automotive parts supply networks in North America for its members. Federated Co-Man purchases and stocks products in large volumes then redistributes that inventory to its Federated member locations. This allows members to purchase more frequently at a lower cost and receive consistent order-fill with greater coverage.

Located in Staunton, Virginia, the Federated Co-Man Warehouse is a 380,000 square foot complex ideally located at the intersection of two major Interstates and ships to all 50 states and Canada. Co-Man’s volume has consistently grown since its inception in 2000 and serves as a valuable asset for Federated members. Co-Man stocks 35,000 sku’s across 75 product lines and has order-fill percentages in excess of 98% with those orders processed in 24 hours.

“We at Keystone believe this is a valuable program beyond the discounted rates for members. Our partnership has opened doors, enabling us to connect with new manufacturers who are important to the continued growth of our OE business,” said Dave Burke, Category Manager at Keystone. “We’re honored to be the recipient of this year’s Co-Man of the Year award.”

New Industry Market Trends Prove to Be Game Changers for Fleet

Change is often as unpredictable as it is inevitable. Business models either adapt to emerging market trends and consumer demand or become crippled by stagnant business practices. Leaders across the professional fleet market segment have found successful ways to navigate the challenges of an ever- evolving commercial industry that is heavily influenced by a variety of dynamic factors, from pioneering vehicle platforms, remarkable technological advancements and innovative aftermarket potential to more intangible variables, such as fluctuating fuel costs, uncertain economic stability and broadening emissions regulations.

Yet commercial industry innovators, such as OEM and aftermarket manufacturers, continue to advance the automotive sector. Why? Because they embrace change, evolve and grow with the market, continuously reinventing themselves, thus achieving sustainable growth through effective R&D, strategic planning, proper forecasting and appropriate diversification.

Eric Fairchild, Director of Northeast Sales and US Customer Support, is a veteran Keystone employee for nearly two decades. He’s seen the professional fleet market segment evolve masterfully throughout the years, always finding innovative ways to remain relevant even during challenging economic times. New commercial vehicle models have given the industry a facelift, making both form and function important factors in the decision-making process for end users. “The industry continues to be resilient while diversifying. The ability of our customer base and the manufacturers to react to trends efficiently is somewhat remarkable and really is the core of why they stay relevant,” said Fairchild. Aftermarket manufacturers and distributors like Keystone have a significant role to play in the growth of the commercial industry.

As the leading and largest wholesale distributor of specialty automotive parts in North America, Keystone is well versed in the opportunities that change provides. Its business strategy has flexed over the years to embrace change where change brought growth, including logistics expansion, brand and inventory diversification, as well as market segment specialization.

Keystone category management and sales leadership recently teamed up with WEATHER GUARD® and some valued customers to educate retailers and restylers about the current state of commercial business, emerging market trends in the industry, new and improved vehicle platforms and the significant aftermarket potential for professional upfitters. The takeaway? It’s a growing and changing segment, so don’t leave any money on the table!

State of the Business

Business continues to grow, as US auto sales remain strong in 2016 with a forecast of 17.6-17.8 million vehicles sold by year end, an increase over a record-breaking 2015. “We now have greater confidence that record sales in 2015 will lead to yet another volume record in 2016,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, a leading provider of automotive production, sales and powertrain forecasts and automotive industry market intelligence.

Commercial vehicle sales are part of the upward trend. According to the February 2016 edition of the NTEA OEM Monthly Chassis Report, “Commercial truck chassis sales rose 19.5 percent in the U.S./Mexico market in November 2015 as compared to the same month the previous year, with cumulative sales up about 9 percent. Canadian sales rose 25.5 percent in November and were up almost 15 percent for the year.”

The “Looking Ahead” section of the report paints a positive global growth outlook with projections at 3.4 percent in 2016 and 3.6 percent in 2017, corresponding with forecasts of 7.5 percent for India, 2.6 percent for the United States and about 1.8 percent for the European Union.

Scott Percival, Category Manager at Keystone, echoes that sentiment and adds there are a number of factors contributing to the growth potential of fleet business in 2016, including a rebounding US economy that finished strong at the end of 2015, as well as a decrease in fuel costs and low financing rates, which have supported the increase of new truck sales.

Mike Antich, Contributor, Editor and Associate Publisher of Automotive Fleet, reminds us that “fuel represents approximately 60 percent of a fleet’s total operating costs. Consequently, the stability of fuel pricing over the past 36 months has been the No. 1 factor contributing to keeping fleet operating costs flat.” Low fuel costs certainly enable businesses to further invest in their fleet and more vehicles on the road create additional professional upfitting opportunities for you!

Impressive year-over-year commercial growth last year will prove challenging to surpass in 2016. Antich, who authored 2016 Buying Forecast for Commercial Fleet, states fleet ordering for the 2016 model- year is forecast to be flat compared to the prior model-year, but “as the economy has improved in some economic sectors, these companies will in, crease their fleet buy due to growth in their businesses.”

But projections of a “flat” year still yield an impressive number of bid opportunities for professional upfitters...

John Brassfield is the owner of two Trucksmart retail locations, one in Rocklin, CA, and the other in Aurburn, CA. Truck accessory sales have been the driving force of Brassfield’s business model the past 29 years and there’s no slowing down in sight. Sales are booming and the professional upfitting contracts keep rolling in. “We have reliable and consistent professional bids with the municipality and railroad, fire protection, security and pest control companies, landscapers and builders and electrical contractors,” said Brassfield. “We (retailers and restylers) thought that when the economy collapsed, this Bedslidewas going to be the new state of normal. But it’s come back even better, at least regionally. I see a lot of contractors investing in brand new vehicles and equipment.” Commercial professionals + New Vehicles + A Need for New Equipment = $ for Retailers and Restylers

Market Trends and Products

Jeff Kotz, Senior Product Manager for commercial vehicles at WEATHER GUARD®, says there has been a shift to lighter weight, more fuel efficient models that deliver what a user needs in a more economical way. But, he notes, “While many businesses are investing in upgraded vehicles with enhanced features, the average life of a commercial vehicle remains 10-11 years in comparison to the historic 7-8 years, so we still see a lot of replacement product sales.” WEATHER GUARD® top sellers continue to be the 127 series toolboxes, the 184 series side boxes and the 300 series headache racks. There remains a huge and positive response to matte, textured black finishes on aftermarket products, added Kotz.

What’s selling BIG at Keystone? “Brands like WEATHER GUARD®, Kargo Master, Cross Tread, Dee Zee, Bedslide and Fill-Rite continue to drive the trend with their toolboxes, tanks, van packages, racking systems, window screens, cargo slides and bulkheads. Jotto or RAM Mounting System laptop mounts and various track systems, hitches, wiring and tie downs are asked for frequently as well,” said Thomas Sabetta, a sales associate in the Exeter, PA, Keystone call center. WEATHER GUARD®, BackRack, Rigid LED Lighting, Samlex, Air Lift, Firestone, Bedslide and the Cequent family are some of the most popular brands Brassfield purchases from Keystone to service his professional customers.

While many new trends are impacting the professional market segment, three are revolutionizing the industry:

• The increase of light-duty trucks as vehicles of choice: The Wall Street Journal reported a 6.5 percent increase versus prior year in light duty truck sales during January 2016 and based on February 2016 sales data, the Ford F-series, Chevrolet Silverado, RAM and GMC Sierra all land in the Top 20 of overall vehicle sales, sending a very strong message that these pickup trucks are not only desirable everyday drivers, but also strong contenders in the professional space. “The ½-ton market has made so many strides in horsepower, fuel efficiency, towing capacity and overall price tag that these vehicles have become serious contenders for fleet bids. The Ford F-150, Chevy and RAM are some of the top vehicles being upfitted,” said Kelli Kenyon, a sales associate at the Greensboro, NC, Keystone call center. Brassfield agrees, “I’m used to seeing bids for ¾-ton trucks, but the ½-ton vehicles have improved in every single area.” Practicality is dominating the decision making of end users, added Brassfield.

Strong light-duty sales provide a positive outlook for truck accessory shops and professional upfitters alike, especially since the light-duty market has made enormous strides in quality performance, features and affordability.

• The form, function and rise in sales of commercial vans: According to the February 2016 edition of the NTEA OEM Monthly Chassis Report, “Through November (2015), total (US/Mexico commercial van) sales were up 21.8 percent, and shipments were just behind with a 21.4-percent growth rate.”

Kotz communicated a possible trend in work truck versus van, as data supports commercial work truck registrations have declined, while van registrations continue to increase. Could it be the start of a shift? Time will tell.Weather Guard Toolbox

Kenyon says aftermarket product sales for commercial van models continue to do very well at Keystone, stating the company has gone even deeper and broader on application coverage to accommodate the growing business. Form, function and an array of innovative aftermarket upgrades to choose from, such as the new WEATHER GUARD® EZGLIDE2 ladder rack system, continue to make commercial vans an attractive, affordable option.

• The groundbreaking Ford aluminum-alloy body: Simply put, “It’s a game changer. No doubt about it,” said Kenyon. The introduction of Ford’s groundbreaking aluminum-alloy body is not merely a phase, rather a new standard in the automotive industry. Ford encourages its brand loyalists to Go Further, and the aluminum-alloy body allows just that. “Class-exclusive* military-grade, aluminum alloy body— this is the same 5,000/6,000-series high-strength grade of aluminum that’s used in industries such as aerospace, commercial transportation and energy. Our objective: reduce weight while increasing strength. What’s more, aluminum-alloy is resistant to dents and corrosion.”

Kotz believes, “Making the decision to venture into aluminum has completely changed the industry and its impact is just starting. Other makers are following suit and the truck equipment industry must be ready for it, all the way down to the aluminum and steel plants.”

Erich Ross, Regional Sales Manager at Keystone, adds, “As the truck market continues to evolve, fuel economy will always be a major factor. Engine design technology has always played a huge role in that, but Ford has taken it a step further with its aluminum body. This has allowed it to reduce the F-150 by 700 pounds. That directly affects fuel economy and puts money back into the pocket of the business owner who relies on a fleet of trucks out on the road daily.”

Popular Vehicle Platforms

Impressive horsepower, torque and towing capabilities in combination with upgraded features, improved fuel economy and top rated safety features are now standard at a value price… allowing some extra wiggle room in the budget for upgraded LED lighting, towing accessories, cargo securement, toolboxes and racking systems. There is no shortage of quality choices in the work truck area, all of which have prime upfitting potential. Here are a few of the top models recognized as contenders in the professional fleet market segment:

• 2016 Ford F-150 named Kelley Blue Book’s Truck Best Buy
• 2016 Chevy Colorado was named Motor Trend’s 2016 Truck of the Year
• 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Named the Texas Truck Showdown Towing Champion
• RAM 1500 named 2015 Fleet Truck of the Year
• 2015 Vincentric Best Fleet Value in America™ awards went to Toyota Tacoma Base Dbl Cab 2WD for mid-size pickup; the RAM 1500 Tradesman Reg Cab 2WD for full-size ½-ton pickup; the RAM 2500 Tradesman Reg Cab 2WD for Full-Size 3/4-ton heavy duty pickup; and the RAM 3500 Tradesman 6.4L V8 Reg Cab 2Wd for full-size 1- ton heavy duty pickup.
• Ford named Best Overall Truck Brand in 2015 Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards
• Ford F-150 named 2016 Green Truck of the Year Award

How Can You Get a BIGGER Piece of the Action?

As a retailer, if you’re interested in exploring the professional fleet market segment then strive to foster productive connections with local municipalities, reach out to vocational businesses and partner with a trusted name like Keystone to get you started with effective display programs, merchandising, stocking and spec’ing guidance, as well as product education.

Keystone offers its customers product from more than 800 suppliers and access to 165,000 unique SKUs. The sophisticated logistics system operates through a highly reliable and route-based fulfillment network. The eight warehouses and 47 non-inventory stocking cross dock locations are strategically positioned throughout the country to best meet the delivery demands of customers in North America.

Steve Hesson, owner of Steve’s Vans and Accessories in Marietta, Ohio, says, “Ninety-nine percent of the product we’re selling or upfitting comes from Keystone. The large offering of brands and products makes it possible for me to diversify and grow.” Brassfield adds, “A KAO truck is in both my stores every single day. I can order right now at 7 pm and have it here in the morning. It’s impressive.” That kind of service gives you a significant competitive advantage during any bidding process.

What’s Kenyon’s advice to professional upfitters? “Let us work with you to tap into the bidding potential for local municipalities. I encourage my customers to diversify the right way, through proper product education, so their business can become a viable option in the fleet bid process,” she said.

Enter 2016 with a fresh perspective—the professional fleet market segment continues to embrace change as a springboard for opportunity and so should you! Get a bigger piece of the action by optimizing the many resources available to you through your Keystone salesperson.

 

  • 3/9/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • Bradley Worrell

Bill Rogers stepped into the role of vice president and general manager for NTP-STAG in July 2015, during an especially hectic time for the RV parts distributor. About the same time Rogers took the helm, the company reorganized its top management team, it began its consolidation and reorganization of Coast Distribution’s operations following the acquisition, it continued its integration of Stag-Parkway’s operations after acquiring that distributor in October 2014, and it continued with its intensive planning for The Expo, it’s first combined NTP-STAG distributor show and what is believed to be the largest RV aftermarket show ever.

Some might find juggling those various responsibilities daunting, but then Rogers is no stranger to holding executive leadership positions in supply chain management, with a long track record of working for such companies as General Electric, Textron/ Bell Helicopter and Keystone Automotive, the parent company of NTP-STAG.

“My job is really easy, given I am surrounded by an excellent team of competent, passionate and highly experienced professionals,” he says modestly. “My emphasis is on keeping us focused, removing obstacles and bureaucracy, and on customer satisfaction.”

As the NTP-STAG show was winding down on Jan. 20, Rogers took time out of his busy schedule to talk with RV PRO about the show, the state of the company’s ongoing process of integrating three national RV distributors, the combined company’s expanded services to assist dealers, and its overall plans moving forward.

RV PRO: With the acquisitions of Stag-Parkway and Coast Distribution now behind you, what’s the message you want to get out to the industry, especially for dealers attending this show?

Rogers: I think our overall intent is to take the opportunity to say, ‘We’re not some big (corporation) that has no face. We’re all of the same people you’ve dealt with forever.’ Nothing has changed.

In fact, hopefully we’ve done a good job of integrating and taking the best of everything (from NTP, Stag and Coast) in a well-balanced manner and with a broad section of the people from those organizations and applying it to the task at-hand.

And to be really humble about it, in all honesty. We understand there are options, we really do. And if we don’t do things the right way, shame on us; it’s ours to lose. We have to do the right things and earn the business we have.

RV PRO: Where are you in the integration process today? Are things basically wrapped up, or is there still more to do?

Rogers: No, things aren’t done. Yes, there are things left to do.

I think we’ve integrated seven warehouses out of 17. At this point, we are focused on the execution of The Expo and the show orders and that activity. So, there’s nothing more planned for the next few months at this point. But I guess, overall, I would say that, by the end of 2016, we should be mostly done.

RV PRO: When the integration is complete, what do you envision the company will look like?

Rogers: I think it will end up looking like an expanded version of NTP-STAG. With the resources and the combination of the people, processes and systems, I think we will have more and more customer satisfaction, more customer service options, enhancements to systems, broader offerings, and just continue to work on satisfying customers.

RV PRO: So, NTP-STAG Coast, a Keystone Automotive company, seems like a bit of a mouthful. Any thoughts on a possible company name change moving forward?

Rogers: That’s a great question, and everyone is focused on it. … I think, once we get through the integration, we’ll come up with some name that makes sense for the business going forward.

I think that name will probably be separate from the Keystone or the automotive side, because Keystone on the automotive side has a long history and it makes sense to keep it in place on that side.

It was easy when it was NTP-STAG; it seemed to fit together. We had a nice solution for that. … So, maybe we just retain NTP-STAG, or maybe we just start with something new altogether to keep it fresh.

RV PRO: To what extent do you see the combined company keeping any of the specific elements that were distinct to NTP and Stag and Coast?

Rogers: We have taken a good examination of each of the businesses and gotten input from each of the organizations to say: What do we do well? What do we not do so well? How does it fit into the logistics structure that we’ll press on with?

In terms of things like the shows, the marketing, how we set up, and who we put in place in terms of the inside and outside sales force: All of those things are where most of the opportunities are to get feedback from both our internal folks and from our customers. Whatever elements of the businesses are retained will be the result of that input.

RV PRO: Of course, Coast had its own line of branded products, such as the Husky towing products, the Faulkner furniture and the Powerhouse generators. Has there been a determination yet as to whether the combined company will continue to sell those products?

Rogers: Yes, they will be offered moving forward. There’s no reason not to continue to support those lines. There are customers that are depending upon those lines today.

They are a brand that Coast created. Whether we would have taken that same approach, who knows? But our ownership of those brands is certainly something that we wouldn’t do anything to hurt.

What I will tell you is that, on the branded products, those are our focus. We won’t put a Coast proprietary product ahead of a branded product in terms of emphasis.

But if a customer likes the Coast products … and likes the value proposition that goes with those, then we completely support that and we’re not doing anything to change that part of the business. We’ll support it and we’ll see how it goes.

RV PRO: Meanwhile, Stag-Parkway was always known for its strong educational emphasis, especially its Professional Retailer Organization (PRO) program. Will that continue to be an emphasis for the combined company moving forward?

Rogers: For 2016, it is absolutely a priority for us to support the industry in education. As we mentioned this morning, we’ve done a lot of work to try to get the PRO offering to be consistent and approved by the (RV Dealers Association’s) Mike Molino Learning Center. It’s under review now and we’re pretty confident it will be helpful in terms of those certifications … for parts manager and service manager positions. Those are the current things I think will contribute to us helping in that area.

What we are challenged now, though, to do – and this is something I feel very strongly about – is how do we get more techs into the RV market? Because, there is a real supply issue with techs. One thing I hear consistently from all the dealers is: ‘There’s not enough techs. And, we have a hard time getting and retaining techs.’

To the extent that we can help increase the supply of technicians, I think it’s a huge win for us, personally, and for the dealers. Because they’ll write more business and we’ll get some portion of that. So, I think it’s a win-win.

Our intent is to work with RVIA, work with RVDA, and work with any other organization that we can help support with our training facilities, putting parts in place to help with training, maybe facilitating suppliers getting together. So, there’s lot of help we can provide and we are very interested in doing it.

RV PRO: If you would, talk a bit about what kinds of facilities you have in place now to serve dealers, and what your plans are moving forward.

Rogers: We had six distribution centers in place to serve dealers. We added a seventh distribution center, just outside of Detroit, in Brownstown. The square footage on that is 360,000 square feet, and that started operation at the first of the year. That warehouse will service the whole Canadian and upper-Midwest market.

In addition to that, we have a new warehouse coming online in the beginning of the second quarter in Spokane, Wash. That will be 250,000 square feet, and that will replace the distribution center we have in Wilsonville, Ore., which is about 100,000 square feet. So, it’s bigger and it’s farther north, so strategically we can get to more places, certainly in the provinces of Canada. So that is underway and being set up as we speak.

In addition to that, our cross-dock changes are kind of dynamic: We have opened new cross-docks in several areas.

Meanwhile, we did additional incremental space to our Kansas City distribution center that added 60,000 square feet with a building addition. And then in Corona, in Southern California, there was a portion of the warehouse building we didn’t occupy before. The tenant moved out and we were able to grab that, so we added another 30,000 square feet and now occupy the whole building.

Also, I’d note we’ve added 90 cube vans, 27 tractors and 152 drivers to our fleet service.

RV PRO: Based in part on where your new warehouses are located, it seems like the Canadian market is taking on even more importance for your combined company than the previously individual distributors? What’s ahead for the company in serving that market?

Rogers: Actually, Coast had a big presence up there and NTPSTAG had a growing presence up there. Now we have the opportunity to continue that. … So, with the combined entities we now have the volume to support programs we’re known so well for in the U.S., like merchandising store sets, personalized catalog programs, direct mail programs, etc. All of those things now can be supported because of the base that has been set, so it’s a great avenue for them.

RV PRO: You’ve talked about how the combined company will benefit customers in the U.S. and Canada. What do you say to those who express concern about what distributor consolidation means for the aftermarket?

Rogers: I think we were a little slow to try to address that (concern) with our customer base, so they understood who we are and what our intentions were, better. … That wasn’t the real focus for us; we were focused on the nuts and bolts of making sure the integrations went right on the logistics side, and that we were servicing them as best we could. But we lacked in the communication, in telling them who we were and the why.

Their concern, while understandable, shouldn’t be a big focus for them. We are going to be here to service their needs and there continues to be strong competition; dealers still have many options. … To the extent we can put our customers at ease, that’s going to be our focus.

RV PRO: Subsequent to NTP-STAG’s acquisition of Coast, Meyer, Land ‘N’ Sea and now Camping World have all announced plans to enter the RV parts distribution business. Has that surprised you?

Rogers: My view is that, if there’s opportunity, people are going to get into the business. I assume they see an opportunity. So, I’m not surprised by it. ...

I think it speaks to the vitality of the industry. When you look at the growth in unit sales, it’s amazing. When you follow any global company now, they would all love to be doing business in the U.S. And the RV business is primarily a U.S. and a Northern American business, as we see it. ...

Now, we feel like we’re in a good position to be a good answer to the customers’ needs. But again, if we don’t continue to meet dealers’ needs and exceed their expectations, somebody else will. That’s just the way things work.

RV PRO: Speaking of the RV market, are you optimistic about it for 2016, particularly as it relates to your company?

Rogers: I do have high expectations for the overall industry and for NTP-STAG. All of the things that make it attractive are still there. … I think RVIA and RVDA and the combination of the Go RVing campaign does a great job of trying to attract new entrants to the market and increase the overall market. I think people are doing good things to increase the market interest, and I think (lower) gas prices are certainly helpful.

During and after the recession, there’s been a strong demand for retailing parts and providing service. As dealers benefit, we expect to see gains as well.

RV PRO: What details can you share at this point about next year’s show?

Rogers: Anaheim is what we’re planning for next year (Jan. 30-31); we’re very excited about that. That venue, I think, offers something new and fresh.

I would just expect us to build on what we’ve done at this year’s show in New Orleans, which has been great.

 

  • 3/7/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • Bradley Worrell and Jesse Sidlauskas

The first show since NTP, Stag-Parkway and Coast Distribution all combined offered one large buying venue for dealers.

NEW ORLEANS – More than 2,500 people turned out for NTP-STAG’s distributor show, dubbed The Expo, to shop from nearly 200 exhibitors.

This year’s show, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, marked the first time that formerly separate distributors NTP, STAG and Coast Distribution were all together under one roof as a combined company. And while show officials didn’t release numbers, the expectation was that it would be the largest RV distributor show ever in terms of dealer turnout and sales.

“We don’t have the numbers in yet, but we’ve definitely exceeded any show we’ve done before, so we’re real pleased,” said Bill Rogers, NTP-STAG vice president and general manager. “I’m sure the numbers will exceed anything we’ve done in the past.”

For their part, vendors remarked positively on the volume of traffic and commerce throughout the two-day show.

“It’s gone very well,” Chase Healy, Furrion director of specialty vehicle sales, said late in the closing day of the two-day event. “We’ve sold a lot of product.”

“Sales-wise, it was huge for us,” said Bob Brammer, president of Stromberg Carlson, who noted the company saw particularly strong orders for its jacks. The NTP-STAG show “exceeded our expectations,” he added.

“It went well; we moved a lot of systems – even better than we expected going in,” said Erik Guldager, national sales manager, mobile products, for Winegard. The supplier launched three major products at the NTP- STAG show and got “an incredibly good response on our new, low-cost Dish Playmaker satellite product. Dealer feedback on that product was wonderful,” he said.

Valterra CEO George Grengs commented favorably on the “excellent dealer attendance,” noting that “it looked to be the largest show on record for the RV aftermarket.” Valterra reported that its best sellers at the show included its Dominator Sewer Kits and its Pure Power and Odorlos Tank Treatments.

Debuting New Ordering Technology

The busy opening afternoon led to a shortage of order forms as dealers stopped by on the opening day to pick up forms as part of a shopping process. Still, by the next day, the buyers’ demand for order forms appeared met, leaving vendors to collect purchases throughout much of the day.

In future years, the need for a paper supply could become a contingency, as NTP-STAG tested an electronic ordering system on 49 iPads at the show. That system operates like many online shopping carts, allowing buyers to search through the NTP-STAG parts catalog for stock keeping units (SKUs) from NTP, Stag and Coast. Totals are given in either Canadian or U.S. dollars, based on preference.

NTP-STAG’s parent company, Keystone Automotive, first tested the idea with a smaller batch of iPads at an automotive show in Canada in July. The distributor used the NTP-STAG show to debut a larger rollout of the technology.

Patrick Stevenson, who oversees information technology for NTP-STAG, said that the idea is to eventually replace the paper shopping and ordering system with a more advanced version of the electronic system being tested.

“The engine is just a search, and it differs from VIA as a value to suppliers,” he said. “It’s a cross- reference search for parts, so you’re not going to look by part type to find (for example) a hitch, but if I know my part type – whether its NTP, Stag, Coast or manufacturer part number – the results start to narrow down.”

As he punched a number into the search bar, a dropdown list populated and began to narrow product options as he reached the end of the SKU, before finally offering options of products.

The electronic system has some advantages over the paper standard, Stevenson said. Most notably, a full electronic rollout – which the company hopes to achieve in the coming years – would minimize the amount of paper used at the shows.

“The amount of paper that is used at a combined event like this is monumental,” Stevenson said. “We brought more paper to this show than we did all four automotive big shows in the spring, and the demand has been overwhelming.”

Still, it is unlikely that the paper system will ever become entirely obsolete, according to Stevenson, who noted that it will likely play a role as a backup to the electronic system in the future.

“You always want to have a Plan B because you’re subject to connectivity challenges,” he said. “So we’ll always have a Plan B in the form of paper, but the goal is to go into the electronic era full steam ahead, and then maybe in conjunction with some combination of devices at booths and/or devices within the customer’s hands.”

Terry Trailer Auction Garners Money for Hall of Fame

At the close of the show on Jan. 20, NTP-STAG officials named the winner of a silent auction for a fully restored 1978 Terry travel trailer, with all proceeds being donated to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

Urs Buechin, owner of Heidi’s RV Superstore in Hawkestone, Ontario, won the auction, with a winning bid of $20,300.

“NTP-STAG believes in the RV Hall of Fame mission, and we are happy to offer up the Project Terry Trailer as a fundraising tool to help the Hall of Fame continue its good work,” John Spaulding, NTP-STAG marketing director, RV said. “All the proceeds of the silent auction, plus a $5,000 contribution by NTP-STAG will go the the RV Hall of Fame.”

The trailer was restored with new brakes, bearings, hubs, tires and wheels, as well as siding, an awning, a new roof, vents and graphics. On the interior, new lights, toilet, sinks, tanks, furnace, air conditioning, refrigerator, range, water heater, furniture, counters, floors and woodwork were installed.

Project Terry sponsors include Carefree of Colorado, Coleman-Mach, Dicor, Husky Towing Products, JR Products, Norcold, Powerhouse Products, Suburban, Thetford, Valterra, Ventline by Dexter and Winegard.

 

In an era when the U.S. RV industry has exhibited consistent growth and resilience, consolidation continued to reshape the North American RV market­place in a big way in 2015 just as it has in an array of other U.S. business sectors.

On the manufacturing side, Thor In­dustries Inc. acquired key vendor Pos­tle Aluminum Inc., Cavco Industries Inc. bought Fairmont Homes Inc. and Chariot Eagle Inc. and California-based Pacific Coachworks Inc. purchased Northland Industries in Nampa, Idaho.

Supplier Patrick Industries Inc. made headlines with the acquisition of North American Forest Products Inc. and Structural Composites of Indiana Inc., while Elkhart, lnd.-based Dexter Axle completed the late-year purchases of AL-KO Vehicle Technology and Titan lnternational's brake and actuator business. Lippert Components Inc. and Valterra Products LLC also finalized significant acquisitions.

On the retail front, Camping World Inc., Lazydays RV, Campers Inn RV, Pete's RV Center and Woody's RV World were among the retailers buying existing stores.

But it was consolidation in the RV aftermarket parts and accessories end of the business that arguably generated the most "buzz" in the trade press over the past year and ultimately made LKQ Corp:s Exeter, PA-based Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. and NTP­Stag RV distribution unit a slam-dunk choice as the "2015 RVBusiness Newsmaker of the Year:

"It wasn't a tough choice for the staff of RVBusiness, given the sheer volume of news stories on this topic in the com­petitive trade press; reported RVBusi­ness Publisher Sherm Goldenberg. "The fact of the matter is that LKQ in two years has amalgamated a substantial share of the U.S. RV aftermarket by pur­chasing the nation's top three RV after­market distributors, including Keystone Automotive itself and its Oregon-based NTP Distribution Inc. division plus Atlanta-based Stag-Parkway Inc. and, in August, The Coast Distribution System Inc. out of Morgan Hill, California.

"And when you look at the general ongoing wave of consolidation and the attention Keystone's acquisitions spawned among dealers, suppliers and competitive distributors, there's really no question in our minds that Keystone Au­tomotive was the most newsworthy sin­gular news story in the RV arena over the past year:"

Of course, there were plenty of other buzz-worthy headlines in 2015, among them:

"Winnebago's Potts Retires; Olson is Interim CEO" - The abrupt August exit of Winnebago Industries Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Randy Potts after 32 years with the Iowa manufacturer was a complete surprise to the rest of the industry, as was the temporary appointment of retired chairman Bob Olson and, subsequently, the interim tenure of Board Chairman Larry Erickson as the search for Pottts' replacement continued.

"Huge/meyer Succeeds Coon as RV/A's President" - Change at the top of the manufacturer-led Recreation Vehicle Industry Association doesn't occur all that often. Richard Coon, a former Cummins/Onan sales execu· tive, served 1 0 years before his October retirement. So, people are watching closely the transition to a new era at the Reston, VA-based trade association during which ex-Outdoor Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer should bring plenty of energy and new ideas.

"GE Sells Commercial Finance Arm to Wells Fargo" - Less than a month after GE CEO and Chairman Jeffrey lmmelt visited the RV industry's leadership in February in Elkhart, Ind., he informed General Electric Co. share· holders that the returns from its massive banking operations had fallen below the company's cost of capital, adding urgency to its consideration of an exit from the business. Sure enough, in mid-October, GE Capital, a major RV floorplan lender, was sold to Wells Fargo & Co.

All things considered, though, Key­stone's NTP-STAG rollup clearly was the story of the year, even though Keystone Vice President and General Manager Bill Rogers wasn't altogether flattered by all of the press coverage and the at­tention it involved. On the contrary, Rogers said in an early December inter· view during RVIA's 53rd Annual Na­tional RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., that his top priority right now has little to do with publicity and everything to do with the integration of all three companies under the corporate umbrella of 2,000-employee Keystone. RVB Exeter Building

As part of that effort, Rogers and his RV team at Keystone - already one of the world's leading distributors of specialty automotive parts and accessories - are methodically working their way through the ranks of North American dealers and suppliers to further assure them that they will like doing business with Keystone and NTP-STAG over the long haul, given a chance to do so.

"I guess I don't see it (a "Newsmaker of the Year" designation) as all that significant in itself," said Rogers, as his company prepared for its first combined NTP·STAG 2016 Expo trade show Jan. 19-20 in New Orleans. "I think what we've done has made good logic in terms of helping build a supply chain for dealerships that is efficient, that is able to offer high service levels, that is economically helpful. And the more vol­ume that goes through that supply chain, the more runs (delivery cycles) we can have to the customers."

Although Keystone will continue doing business in the RV sector as "NTP-STAG" for the time being, Rogers says that name could change once Key­stone gets its arms around the Coast acquisition. NTP-STAG has already consolidated three of Coast's warehouses into Keystone's overall network - which today includes seven warehouses, 47 stand-alone shipping cross-docks and $200 million in field inventory.

"So, we're 'NTP-STAG' for now, and since Coast isn't integrated yet, it still stands alone - and that's the way it's staying for awhile," said Rogers, seated next to NTP-STAG Director of Market­ing John Spaulding in the South Wing of the Kentucky Exposition Center dur­ing the Louisville Show. "I think we'll always do a different branding for the RV side versus the Keystone (automotive) side. Whether it changes over time remains to be seen."

Reflecting on his experiences over the past two years and some of the mis­understanding that sometimes surfaced, Rogers feels that he and his RV team could have done a better job of commu­nicating at times with both suppliers and dealers in presenting their overall game plan. That said, he thinks that Keystone's management has been making progress lately in conveying one essential message: That Keystone and its NTP·STAG division have no interest in doing anything but bringing improved service and better products to its customer base.

"Yes, we are making progress," said Rogers. "We are getting a good response from dealerships and the overall customer base. I think there was some early concern about it and I think we've tried to address those concerns - probably not quick enough. If there was anxiety in the supply chain, it wasn't, I don't think, anything that we did to create it other than a lack of communication or a lack of getting in front of the communi­cation around that. But the more time goes by and the more we're consistent and the more we're doing what we say we'll do, our channel partners are responding well. I am optimistic about our ability to stay connected with our customers and deliver an improved customer experience."

RVB Exeter Warehouse"And now that I've had the opportu­nity to visit with customers, I think there's a couple of things that we can do to help the industry in addition to just the normal stuff we do," added Rogers, whose company brought a staff of 40 people to the Louisville Show. "I think there's an area around training and helping to get more technicians into the industry that we can take a leadership role on. So, John (Spaulding) and I have talked about doing much more on that in 2016. Where we have training theaters at our facilities, we can provide space to hold meetings and help coordinate supplier engagement. We can help co­ordinate with suppliers to do training and really work with RVIA and the other industry associations to come up with programs that support the certification requirements that help get techs into the industry.

"And if we do that, it will help the deal­ers; I think they'll be appreciative. It's a win for them, but I think it's a big win for us, too, because the more business they do, the more business we'll do."

For his part, Spaulding, a former front-line Stag-Parkway executive, says he's looking forward to 2016 and to let­ting his company's veteran staff - representing all three formerly independent distribution firms - do what it does best at the New Orleans "Expo" show and beyond.

"Yes," Spaulding told RVB, "2016 will be an exciting year for us. We'll have all three entities operating in concert at the Expo and our goal is to prove ourselves and earn the business that customers are good enough to give us. Our priority is to provide what they need when they need it, very consistently, and to earn the right to be their first choice for aftermarket parts."  RVB

 

Let The BIG Shows Begin

Forty years is a long time to remain relevant. For Keystone Automotive Operations, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of specialty automotive parts in North America, decades of longevity in a dynamic industry can be attributed to four Ps: partnerships, products, performance, and personnel.

Keystone has learned a few things during its impressive history. Never lose sight of your core business; master the fundamentals that keep your doors open; practice integrity in all that you do, resulting in meaningful, long-lasting partnerships; and invest in the right personnel to produce quality results. Those values, ever present during the days of legendary racer and company founder Joe Amato, are still revered and practiced today.

Capitalize On A Growing Market

The Keystone BIG Shows are a representation of these quality characteristics, bringing together three of the strongest forces responsible for helping to shape the aftermarket, with the end result of stronger relationships, growth and prosperity:

• A passionate manufacturing community dedicated to product innovation
• Business-savvy retailers and restylers looking to capitalize on aftermarket opportunities to drive sales
• A trusted distribution partner committed to delivering on consumer demand and providing customers what they need when they need it, so they can close the sale.

The specialty automotive equipment market has grown from 7.2 billion to 36.2 billion, a staggering 500 percent over the past 25 years. And there are no signs of stalling — analysts forecast an upward trend through 2018. As a business owner in a mature and expanding industry now is the time to invest in your future. And there’s no better way to ring the cash register than at the Keystone BIG Shows. The first show is slated for February 20 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital. The Gaylord Texan in Dallas will host the BIG Show on March 5. Together, the events serve as the largest wholesale only buying opportunities.

All aftermarket segments are represented, giving every kind of customer a chance to gather, share market intelligence and receive a customized business-building experience in a more intimate setting with hands-on product demos and education, as well as appealing purchasing incentives to bolster profit potential. There’s something for everyone, from speed, restyling and truck accessory shop owners to Jeep® specialty installers and more.

“The BIG Shows are the single most important days of the year, not only for Keystone but also for our suppliers and our customers. It’s the only time we are all in the same place at the same time with the opportunity to really help each other grow,” said Eric Fairchild, Keystone’s director of north east sales and U.S. customer support. “It is the perfect storm of opportunity: teaching, learning, communicating, building relationships, investing in your business and more. The BIG Shows are unmatched within the industry,” he added. “They give the supplier and jobber the opportunity that SEMA intends to offer, but with a more personalized approach and the added benefit that you can buy what you see. Regardless of business size, you can’t afford not to be there.”

Rolling Out The Red Carpet

Corby Phillips, national sales manager at Warn Industries, has been attending the shows for eight years. “Warn’s two biggest selling seasons are spring and fall. The BIG Shows are the perfect time of year, giving the jobber an opportunity to see our new products and prepare for the hobbyists and hunters to come out of hibernation for spring sales,” said Phillips. “The combination of warming weather and tax returns create an ideal scenario for the jobber to make the sale in the following 30-90 days.”

WEATHER GUARD® has been exhibiting at the BIG Shows since 2009, witnessing them outgrow the Secaucus and Atlantic City, N.J., venues. “This year marks our sixth consecutive year as the primary sponsor of the BIG Show West in Dallas,” said Mike Katz, national sales manager. “The BIG Shows always give us a fast start to the year, allowing us to showcase new products, launch exciting promotions and offer crazy, tough-to-pass-up, one-day show deals, so jobbers can stock up heading into the season.”

Products Showcase and enjoy a reception sponsored by Pendaform™ the night before the show. “The showcase offers customers a focused look at a variety of new products on display across all aftermarket segments," said Tim Williams, VP of sales and marketing. “It’s a great opportunity to see what new items can directly benefit your business or complementary items you may not have considered that can diversify your offerings and increase your growth potential. “On a personal level,” continued Williams, “I really love the ability to get in front of the customers, educate them about our product and talk about current trends, as well as throw out some great programs and promotions for them to take advantage of.” Hint, hint… they’ve been known to give away a truck or two!

Talk shop with your favorite manufacturers and be introduced to a variety of new lines that can kick your business up a notch. Take advantage of enticingly deep deals, promotions and giveaways, allowing you to stock up on your fastest-moving items and new products at a lower price. That means more built-in margin for you and increased profits upon closing the sale. And, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with fellow enthusiasts and industry celebrities. Chip Foose, Vic Edelbrock, Richard Rawlings and Brian Deegan have been known to stop by — just to name a few.

Keystone has managed to combine an engaging atmosphere, great events and, most importantly, business-building opportunities effectively. This gives attendees a one-stop shopping experience that is sure to wow and deliver long-term results. “We want to be part of the process to really help our customers market themselves as a local source for new and innovative products,” said Larry Montante, Keystone’s VP of category management.

So what’s in store for 2016? “Well, you’ll have to come out and see us! You can plan on a lot of excitement, entertainment, celebrity meet-and-greets, prizes, cash giveaways and more. It’s a perfect time of year to see new products and talk one-on-one with the manufacturing experts — all while having fun!” said Melissa Holland, Keystone events manager. “We’re committed to making the shows bigger and better every single year. It’s truly a team effort to ensure customers have a fantastic experience, and we certainly have the right people to make that happen.”

But Don’t Just Take Our Word For It — Take THEIRS!

PendaForm’s Williams couldn’t agree more. “In one spot, you have all of the people that make the products, distribute the products and sell the products—all those who help you make money. It’s a one-day show that makes that BIG of a difference. “You have to figure out a way to break away from the shop for a day”’ he added, “because it’s entirely possible you can meet someone and see, learn or buy something so important that it equates to 10 times more than you can sell in your shop that day. What you learn and see, and have the ability to purchase at the price being offered, can make a huge impact. It’s an investment in your future.”

For three veteran showgoers, breaking away from the shop has made all the difference. “We have two showrooms and install everything we sell,” said Glen Smith, general sales manager at BlackJack SpeedShop. “We work on a variety of vehicles, including Jeeps, trucks, modern muscle and even hot rods. I’ve attended the BIG Shows four or five times. It’s beneficial to meet the vendors and actually see the product and take advantage of deals, especially lines like Warn that go deeper at the show just for those attending. It’s a hands-on experience for us.”

Added Chris Schexnider, Classic Tint’s general manager: “Our core business is window tint and bedliners, but we’ve seen a big uptick in truck accessories. I’ve been attending the BIG Shows for four years. Our favorite part is being able to meet the vendors, see the new products and displays, keep up with what’s happening in the market and take advantage of the deals. Last year, we stocked up on WeatherTech® liners and UnderCover Flex. Also, I consider my relationship with my Keystone sales rep more like a friend.”

Access to new products, vendor interface and new-business opportunities are key reasons to attend, noted Jeff Hanks, VP at Cap and Hitch. “Our business is installs and truck accessories. I attended my first BIG Show in ’08. It’s great to talk with the manufacturers and put names with faces. Our favorite aspect is the New Products Showcase, and there are a lot of deals and promotions. We stock up on the small stuff, and Karen Liedel (Keystone sales associate) points us in the right direction of how to diversify our business.”

Quick Quiz

Where can shop owners across every aftermarket segment gather to meet with the industry’s top manufactures, discuss current trends, learn about new lines, see new products post-SEMA Show, and have a trade show experience that will increase their revenue? The Keystone BIG Shows, of course.

So be sure to: • Book early for best hotel rates
• Keep reservation and registration info handy
• Check parking structure height restrictions affecting raised vehicles
• Schedule time with your Keystone sales associate
• Download the BIG Show app to keep track of schedules
• Grab a floor plan to map out your day
• Check out show sponsors WEATHER GUARD and ReadyLIFT®
• Visit the Keystone booth for business-building tools and your top manufacturers
• Diversify with new product lines
• Attend the New Products Showcase and Customer Appreciation Receptions to enjoy great food and mingle with manufacturers, colleagues and the Keystone team
• Place orders early and often. Big Show deals are one-day specials — no exceptions
• So if you find a steal, BUY IT! STOCK IT! SELL IT!

 

  • 1/1/2016 12:00:00 AM

The New Year is a special time filled with sincere reflection and genuine aspiration for the months to come. For the Keystone family, it also signals a time to express gratitude for those who make it all possible—loyal employees committed to excellence from start to finish; passionate suppliers steadfast in outfitting the aftermarket with innovative products; and valued customers on the edge of the latest trends, helping to drive consumer demand and contribute to the continued success of this impressive industry.

2015 was a great year, one brimming with many moments that inspire an even better tomorrow for Keystone. We drove continuous improvements around the fundamentals that secure the framework of our business model—depth and breadth of inventory, sophisticated logistics, smart diversification and knowledgeable team members who advocate excellent service. These areas serve as the backbone of long term sustainability in an ever-changing environment.

“If You’re Not Changing Then You’re Not Growing.”

Change is a predictable force in life. Businesses can choose to guide the inevitable in a positive and profitable direction or succumb too late without a clear path in sight. We believe with change comes growth opportunity. Proper analysis and planning allows businesses to confidently invest in their future, ensuring a presence for many years to come.

This year we welcomed Coast Distribution System, Inc. to the Keystone family under the LKQ Corp. (Nasdaq: LKQ) umbrella, providing suppliers with unrivaled market coverage and dealers with prime access to the largest inventory of parts and accessories in the industry. In a recent interview with RV Business, Bill Rogers, Vice President and General Manager of Keystone, NTP-STAG and Coast, commented about the acquisition, stating the merger offers customers a plethora of unique marketing, education, merchandising and trade show offerings that would be highly difficult to deliver effectively without the combined resources of the now-one company. “We’re anticipating another strong year in the RV segment and are excited to be heading into the Expo season. Our combined sales force will be gathering the entire dealer family together from the existing NTP-STAG organization and welcoming new Coast dealers to the event, which will be hosted in New Orleans this January,” said Larry Montante, Category Management Leader. It’s the ideal setting to kick-start the year!

Additionally, we expanded our logistic capabilities to include two additional warehouses in 2016, securing a foothold and extending our reach in the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes region and both Central and Western Canada. The new facilities located in Cheney, Washington and Brownstown, Michigan add an additional 500K square feet of inventory space to the current 2 million sq. ft. footprint, enhancing service capabilities in these critical geographies. “The new warehouses not only help us better expand and penetrate into various geographies, but also increase efficiencies and service levels that benefit both suppliers and customers.” said Montante. “We are committed to investing in the market with the goal of offering deeper and broader coverage across various product categories.” Customers, that spells “Cha-Ching” for you—deeper product coverage in additional locations gives you more choices and those choices can translate directly to more profit for your business.

Quality, Teamwork and Service

Investment in quality yields positive results no matter your business—manufacturing, distribution, retail or installation. And that’s certainly true of the FX Products team, who, debuting its line of vehicle accessories at SEMA for the first time, proudly took home first runner up in the New Products Exterior Accessories category for the HD Running Board. Additionally, Keystone’s eCommerce sales force was presented with the third annual RealTruck Vendor Award for extraordinary commitment to EDI, inventory feeds and continual brand growth. “We’re honored to win this award. It’s great to have partners like Real Truck who are equally committed to giving customers a positive e-commerce experience,” said Lori Adams, eCommerce Sales Manager at Keystone.

The Keystone team was honored to be presented with the WD of the Year award by our partners at Advanced Flow Engineering, Inc. (aFe). This award, accepted by Jon Ruzzi, Category Manager for Speed and Performance, and Ralph Ruzzi, VP of Canadian Sales, demonstrates the power of true partnership. “We’re very proud to be the recipient of such a prestigious award,” said Montante. “Jon and Keystone sales have worked collectively with the aFe team to achieve long term, sustainable growth.”

Looking Ahead

The 2016 Keystone BIG Shows are upon us. An enormous amount of time, energy and resources are dedicated to making the BIG Shows an exceptional experience for all guests. As the largest wholesale-only buying opportunity in the automotive aftermarket, the bar is certainly set high to produce an engaging event each and every year. Montante, part of the Keystone family for more than 30 years, has witnessed the BIG Shows grow exponentially in size, scope, quality and aftermarket influence since the inaugural launch in 1999. He’s always amazed how each year tops the one before. “More suppliers, more customers, further exposure…. It’s bigger and better every single year,” said Montante. New lines continue to be a huge focus and great source of growth for the Keystone team. Using the BIG Shows as a launching pad for many of these incoming manufacturers has been successful not only for them, but also the attendees. “We want to be part of the process to really help our customers market themselves as a local source for new and innovative products,” said Montante. There’s no better springboard than the Keystone BIG Shows. Getting first dibs on new lines, new products and new applications allows customers to get a jump start on the competition.

Mark your calendars for this year’s BIG Shows.

BIG Show East - Saturday, February 20th, 2016 Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington DC

BIG Show West - Saturday, March 5th, 2016 Gaylord Texan Resort, Grapevine, TX

According to Statista, one of the world’s largest statistics portals providing users with access to relevant data from over 18,000 sources, the United States automotive aftermarket soared to the 137 billion dollar mark in 2014 with no signs of taking its foot off the gas anytime soon. In fact, forecasters estimate steady growth through 2018, a projection that spells increased sales for retailers this holiday season.

As the automotive aftermarket continues to ride an upward trend, so does its e-commerce sales channel, which continues to benefit from healthy year over year double-digit growth. Hedges & Company, a full-service market research and digital marketing company serving the automotive aftermarket and motorsports industries, estimates the automotive aftermarket’s e-commerce sales will continue to grow at a rate of $1 billion dollars per year through 2018.

What does this mean for you as a retailer? Many rely on strong October, November and December sales to carry them through the lull of the New Year. Minimize the impact e-commerce sales can have on your brick and mortar business profits by appealing to the nostalgia of traditional holiday shopping: develop a solid sales plan, secure proper seasonal inventory with a warehouse distribution partner like Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc., showcase an attractive and inviting storefront and create custom in-store promotions.

“Consumers are more complex, and marketers have more opportunities to reach them than ever before. Truly connecting with consumers requires interaction and omnipresence, emphasizing a complete experience that extends beyond channels, beyond traditional methods, and beyond the holiday season,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, Inc., a company that provides reliable market information and advisory services across a variety of industries.

Keystone Automotive Operations Inc., the leading and largest wholesale distributor of automotive aftermarket equipment in North America, teamed up with a few of its valued customers to offer retailers seven suggestions for converting increased holiday foot traffic into profitable sales.

1) The Early Bird Gets the Worm: The mad holiday rush is starting earlier and earlier each year, placing increased pressure on retailers to wrap up inventory analysis, stocking orders, sales planning and store presentation well before the season. “We start talking about the holidays in early September and put together our advertising flyer by early October. We look at previous year sales, as well as new items and widgets in every price range, including gifts under $25 and $50. Then we adjust store inventory based on that information,” said Rudy Forlenza, industry veteran of 39 years and General Manager of 18 A&A Auto stores located in northeastern, Pennsylvania. Ginger R. Glover, owner of Truckers Toy Store LLC, has three locations in North Carolina and each store serves a unique demographic. Their inventory analysis also is completed early fall and strives to extend consumer reach across the stores with the least amount of capital output in order to maximize profit potential. “We sell a lot of toolboxes, tubular products and items under $50-$60, such as hitch plugs, license tags, leather cleaners, lights and various stocking stuffer gifts for the entire family. We spread the product out across the three locations to serve the various demographics,” said Glover.

2) First and Last Impressions Count: Let’s face it, the holidays are stressful. Help make it an enjoyable retail experience by creating an engaging first impression. Greet consumers with a clean, organized and presentable storefront that captures interest, as well as showcases an appropriate mix of holiday décor and seasonal products. Entice them to step inside and spend! “The store displays, such as end caps, display tables, gift guides and holiday flyers, should be placed in high-traffic areas,” said Forlenza of A&A Auto.

Likewise, the checkout counter should feature stocking-stuffer gifts, offering consumers an array of neatly displayed, irresistible impulse buys including, but not limited to, in-store and brand name gift cards, widgets and gadgets. Steve Schmidt, General Manager of Clear Star Media Group/Finishline in Maple Shade, New Jersey, says their store puts up a small Charlie Brown tree by the register every year. “The customers love it! We add a light strip to the tree and hang gift cards. [Voilà!] An instant impulse buy sensation.” Be smart, be creative and be unique.

3) Appeal to the Senses: An effective use of color, lighting, music, product segmentation, display and demonstration, directional signage and aisle presentation influence consumer perspective and are effective tools in converting window shopping to actual sales. According to The NPD Group, Inc., the appearance chemicals category is up five percent this year. Sub-categories such as scratch removers, detailers, carpet/fabric care and protectants are up 18%, 15%, 13% and 5% respectively. Set up a small demonstration area where consumers can test the products and see the results for themselves. Air fresheners ranked at the top of dollar volume growth, up 12 percent year over year. Hang the newest scent by the register to capture consumer attention and encourage an easy add-on sale. The lighting market continues to impress consumers with groundbreaking designs, features and benefits. Renowned innovators like Rigid Industries and Vision-X are at the forefront of consumer demand, offering premium lighting solutions for cruising the highway or trailblazing the off road. Place a couple of displays in a high-traffic area and encourage customers to experience the variety of lighting solutions.

4) The Right Product SELLS: Focus on the appropriate combination of new and top selling products/applications, seasonal favorites, impulse buys and clearance or discounted items. “Spend the time to dress the store and showcase the right products – you will see an increase in sales,” said Rob Murphy, General Manager of Installations Unlimited in North Syracuse, New York. “If consumers feel they’re getting the right bargain and they’re buying at the right time of year, you’ll see success.” Partnering with the right wholesale distributor makes all the difference. “We’re a small operation and keep very little in stock. A partner like Keystone allows us to get whatever we need the next day,” said Pascucci, General Manager of The Enthusiast in Johnston, Rhode Island.

 - Electronics, i.e., back-up cameras, head units, remote cars, etc.
 - Remote Starters
 - LED Lighting
 - Toolboxes
 - Floor Mats
 - Mud Flaps
 - Specialty Market Items, i.e., Jeep® tops and off road accessories
 - Suspension Products
 - Towing Products
 - Car Care Kits
 - Bolt® Locks
 - Tailgate Assists
 - Tonneau Covers
 - Tubular Products
 - Bedliners
 - Tuners

5) Trained Employees: Store managerseCommerce Industry Spend 2009 to 2015 Schmidt and Pascucci stress the importance of market trend and product knowledge as a key to a business’ success year round. “POP materials and trained employees with extensive product knowledge will close the sale. If someone walks in and is on the fence and you understand the product, [chances are] you’ll sell it,” said Schmidt of Clear Star Media/Finishline. Kristine Pascucci of The Enthusiast agrees. “It’s important to give the customer confidence [during the purchasing process]. Always know what you sell. Educate yourself so when you’re speaking to any customer, you’re informed and, therefore, they’re informed. Trained, well-educated employees translate into happy future repeat customers.” A great holiday experience will have that consumer coming back for more throughout the year.

6) Utilize Proven Tools to Achieve Success: Keystone offers its customers a variety of unique marketing programs to help retailers increase their business exposure, grow sales and maximize profit potential. “Keystone is an important part of our everyday sales, especially eKeystone, their B-to-B portal, and the benefit of having next day delivery services,” said Justin Matney, owner of RPM Off Road, located in Bristol, Tennessee. “We have been extremely fortunate to deal with their friendly and knowledgeable staff. This comes in particularly handy when training a new member of our sales force.”

Captivate consumer attention and drive sales with Keystone’s exclusive Holiday Program, a successful business-building tool developed to help retailers better market themselves and appropriate industry products during the holiday season. Keystone customers can choose from one of four available packages, which are comprised of gift guides and flyers, banners, posters, gift certificates, POP materials and customized imprints. “We always participate in the [Keystone] Holiday Program. The gift guide is a great tool for us and our customers. A lot of wives come in looking to buy gifts for their husbands. The Holiday Program offers a wish list on the back so consumers can make a list of top items, do their shopping a lot easier and then reference that same list throughout the year for birthdays, Father’s Day, etc.” said Pascucci of The Enthusiast.

Make good use of eKeystone, it is the automotive aftermarket’s best business-to-business tool, offering users the most comprehensive catalog system across the industry, one-of-a-kind SmartSearch technology, dedicated e-Commerce customer care and 24/7 access.

 - Experience fast and easy online ordering via year, make, model lookup or SmartSearch Technology
 - View real-time multi-warehouse inventory, acquisition cost and suggested retail price
 - Learn about new lines, new products and add-on selling opportunities
 - Take advantage of marketing support, such as jobber and consumer rebates, promotions and AdSlicks

7) Be Creative: Retailers should use a variety of techniques to achieve success during the holiday season. The retailers mentioned below use a combination of marketing materials, advertising contracts, in-store promotions, manufacturer rebates, counterman spiffs and holiday/product décor to ring the register. Here's some of their comments.

“Our showroom is constantly being changed to offer our customers something different every time they enter our store. Every year we hang Christmas cards from our dealers, warehouses and manufactures.”

Justin Matney, RPM Off Road located in Bristol, Tennessee

“This year we’re using various media outlets to help us communicate our ‘12 Days of Christmas’ special. Each day there’s a different giveaway and a qualifying purchase allows you to pick an additional gift from under the tree. At the end of the season, a portion of the proceeds will go to the local Boys and Girls Club. We also make a big Christmas tree out of toolboxes inside the stores.”

Ginger R. Glover, Truckers Toy Store LLC located in North Carolina

“We leave Keystone Holiday Program materials in the vehicles we’re working on so that we can reach out to our customers without overwhelming them. Each year, we have a different theme in the store with banners, posters, etc. We do radio ads and a ‘Not So Silent Night’ promotion, which we actively push through social media. We also feature a counterman spiff attached to the remote starter program.”

Rob Murphy, Installations Unlimited located in North Syracuse, New York

“We’ve taken the Keystone Holiday Program flyers and inserted them into the community newspaper for additional exposure. We set up Christmas trees and place that year’s hottest items underneath.”

Joe McBride, FX Automotive located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey

“I make custom, hand-painted Jeep® and truck ornaments for the Christmas tree.”

Kristine Pascucci, The Enthusiast located in Johnston, Rhode Island.

“Sometimes we offer [product] package programs that help customers earn gift cards, which can be used to purchase additional items in the store.”

Steve Schmidt, Clear Star Media Group/Finishline located in Maple Shade, New Jersey

As we enter the upcoming winter wonderland, remember to know your customer, educate yourself about current market trends, offer the right product at the right price, invest in reliable, knowledgeable employees, showcase a festive theme throughout your store and enjoy this wonderful time of year.

With consolidation rampant throughout the U.S. economy, the RV industry’s aftermarket parts and accessories companies – suppliers, dealers and distributors alike – are now taking their turn. The driver in this case is LKQ Corp. (Nasdaq: LKQ), a Fortune 500 company that in less than two years has acquired the nation’s top three distributors – Keystone Automotive Operations Inc.’s NTP Distribution Inc., Atlanta-based Stag-Parkway Inc. and, most recently, The Coast Distribution System Inc. The fact that all three companies are now operating under the same corporate umbrella managed by Keystone – one dominant player — has generated plenty of industry buzz on several levels. So, Bill Rogers, vice president and general manager of Keystone/NTP-STAG, agreed to address some of those concerns in this, a new weekly e-feature called, ah, “The Buzz.”

RVB: Some in the marketplace right now are concerned at how all this consolidation may potentially limit options for suppliers and dealers and result in higher prices. How would you respond to that criticism as it relates to the NTP, STAG and Coast rollup?

Rogers: We know there’s a concern out there. We know it because we are in constant contact with our suppliers and dealers as we work through our integration plan and because we are listening and making strategic decisions to ensure that those concerns are addressed up front.

From a suppliers perspective I think the benefits of consolidation are sometimes lost in the debate. If you consider the cost of selling to three competitors – the cost of training, supporting catalogs, trade shows, discounts and promotions – it is considerable. Not just from a financial perspective, but from a time perspective as well. Essentially it takes three times the effort. Take this a step further and consider the effort that was required to fill orders for more than 20 warehouse locations. That’s 20 P.O.’s, 20 AR records that have to be managed, 20 picks and 20 shipments. Consolidation cuts the amount of work to service the accounts from an administrative perspective by two-thirds.

The other benefit that comes along with having a larger presence in the market is coverage. This is a critical and often overlooked benefit when suppliers are considering their distribution strategy. Here’s an example of what I’m referring to: Imagine getting complete market coverage – U.S. and Canada — on a key product launch. When you can leverage an organization like ours, the sheer size brings an inertia and energy to the initiative that translates into improved business. It’s a lot harder to get that kind of penetration and collaborative results working with several different companies or businesses that don’t understand the market.

RVB: Is your approach to the RV industry any different than it is for your automotive clients?

We have made considerable changes to how Keystone fundamentally operates to insure the “automotive” model doesn’t override the requirements to serve our RV customers. We have unique order entry requirements for RV and automotive. We have separate sales teams for both. Most of our product management and marketing functions are unique to the market. Most important, we have exceptional people who came to us through our acquisitions and have been in the industry for years and years. These folks know more than we could ever learn if we had to develop the know-how organically.

With those changes and experience come significant benefits to our dealer customers as well. We have the largest inventory of parts and accessories in the market, so dealers shouldn’t have to hunt around for the part they’re looking for. We also have unique marketing, education, merchandising and trade show offerings that the individual competitive companies would have had difficulty delivering. So, you see, consolidation has benefits for dealers, too.

RVB: What about pricing – a delicate topic that logically emerges when one company, in this case Keystone, gains such a dominant edge?

You know, we’ve made it a priority to try and keep our pricing aligned with what customers were getting from their prior distributor. It hasn’t been easy. In some instances we found that dealers were buying below our costs, which needed to be corrected. In some instances we found that we mismanaged the data during integration and inadvertently changed a price – which, by the way, we corrected once we discovered our error.

In some instances we actually lowered the price. We are not consciously going out and raising prices to our customers. We are however, mindful of maintaining reasonable margins so that we can continue to support the market for the long haul.

At the end of the day, consolidation brings about an emotional response from folks. We get that. What we are trying to do is stay focused on the task at hand – maintaining our service levels through integration – while building an organization that earns the trust of our customers. We honestly don’t mind being held to a high standard because we believe as the leader we should set the pace and tone for the type of experience customers deserve. Our hope is this standard is applied equally across the market as suppliers and dealers consider their options.

1) Have a plan! You’re there to see some great vehicles, but you’re also there to develop and expand your business. Take advantage of the opportunity; get on the website and make sure you identify where and who you have to connect with. And always make sure you spend a few hours for the new products section, which is a must for all attendees.

2) Set your appointments so you’re in one hall for as long as possible. If you don’t then you will lose precious time walking back and forth between North, South and Central.

3) Swipe your card and have the manufacturers send you catalogs – carrying all those books could slow you down.

4) Spend time at the OE manufacturers’ booths to see what platforms they are focusing on so you know what’s in store for your businesses’ future

5) The show does not end at 5PM – SEMA and hundreds of participating manufacturers promote their own events and attending those events will help you create meaningful contacts and connections for your business in the future.

6) Don’t get comfortable – take the time to look at things that you don’t normally sell. You never know what you might see that can diversify your business!

  • 9/1/2015 12:00:00 AM
  • Jane Donnelly

EXETER, PA - Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc.  announced plans to open two additional distribution centers, securing its foothold and extending its reach in the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes region and both Central and Western Canada.

In combination, the new facilities located in Cheney, Washington and Brownstown, Michigan; add an additional 500K square feet of inventory space to Keystone’s current 2 million sq. ft. footprint, enhancing service capabilities in these critical geographies.  Cross dock and truck run expansion will be a likely output of the new warehouse locations.

“We are extremely pleased to announce that we are expanding our operation once again,” says Bill Rogers, VP and General Manager of Keystone. “Our leadership role in both the RV and Automotive industries is something we take very seriously.  We will continue to invest in our business to meet the expectations of our customers and suppliers, supporting our objective to provide ‘Everything you need… when you need it.’  This growth is very exciting for us and should have a favorable impact in both markets. ”

Both warehouses are expected to be fully operational by the second quarter of 2016.

Chicago, IL (August 19, 2015) - LKQ Corporation (Nasdaq: LKQ) announced the completion of its tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of common stock of The Coast Distribution System, Inc. (NYSE MKT: CRV) for $5.50 per share in cash. The tender offer expired at 12:00 midnight Eastern Time at the end of the day on Tuesday, August 18, 2015.

The depositary for the tender offer has advised LKQ that as of the expiration of the tender offer, approximately 4,367,676 shares have been validly tendered and not properly withdrawn in the tender offer (including 59,105 shares tendered through notices of guaranteed delivery), representing approximately 84.04 percent of Coast’s outstanding shares (including 59,105 shares tendered through notices of guaranteed delivery representing approximately 1.14 percent of Coast’s outstanding shares). Accordingly, the minimum tender condition for LKQ’s pending acquisition of Coast has been satisfied. As a result, LKQ accepted for payment in accordance with the terms of the tender offer all shares of Coast common stock that were validly tendered and not withdrawn prior to expiration of the tender offer (including all shares tendered through notices of guaranteed delivery), and payment for such shares will be made promptly. LKQ expects to complete the acquisition of Coast later today through a merger effected pursuant to Section 251(h) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware.


About LKQ Corporation

LKQ Corporation (www.lkqcorp.com) is a leading provider of alternative and specialty parts to repair and accessorize automobiles and other vehicles. LKQ has operations in North America, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Scandinavia, Australia and Taiwan. LKQ offers its customers a broad range of replacement systems, components, equipment and parts to repair and accessorize automobiles, trucks, and recreational and performance vehicles.

Forward Looking Statements

Certain statements in this press release that are not historical facts are forward looking statements that are based on LKQ’s current expectations and beliefs and are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described. These forward looking statements generally include expectations, beliefs, hopes, intentions or strategies regarding our future, including statements about the planned completion of the merger. Forward looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors some of which are not currently known to us. Actual events or results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward looking statements as a result of various factors. Some of such risks, uncertainties and other factors are described in LKQ’s annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2014 and in subsequently filed quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. We assume no obligation to publicly update any forward looking statement to reflect events or circumstances arising after the date on which it was made, except as required by law.

Keystone's George Lathouris Shares Insight On How Retailers Can Profit From The Jeep® Market

It's clear that truck accessory manufacturers have embraced the Jeep® market for a reason. It's one of the fastest growing segments of the truck and SUV industry and is not showing any signs of slowing down. So manufacturers have jumped in, creating a variety of products that allow truck accessory retailers and restylers an opportunity to grow their businesses. From the viewpoint of a warehouse distributor, the Jeep trend can also give truck accessory retailers another avenue to grow their customer base too.

With 38 years of experience, former Chairperson of the SEMA LTAA and SEMA Person Of The Year, Keystone's George Lathouris, believes Jeep®s are one of the most exciting trends he's seen in recent years. "Overall, Jeep®s are more accepted for families, and because of that, the popularity of the vehicle has increased and is quickly becoming the second vehicle." For the truck accessory retailer, Lathouris says it's important to realize that a large portion of this growing Jeep® accessory market isn't necessarily made up of hardcore four-wheelers. In fact many truck accessory manufacturers who are now producing Jeep® products that are sold through WD's like Keystone, agree that the target market are those Jeep® owners who want to customize their vehicles to look good and perform off-road. Yet, most are primarily used for daily driving.

Because WD's like Keystone are quick to move on trends and carry a full line of Jeep® parts and accessories, truck accessory retailers can have a full supply of hard and soft goods available to them when they're ready to jump into this market. "I think is our job to have the right product to suit the marketplace and to deliver at the right time," says Lathouris. "It's important for retailers and restylers who work with WD's like Keystone, to take advantage of the trends to grow their business." Of the many brands and products Keystone carries, Lathouris says that retailers can't go wrong selling Jeep® soft goods and cargo solution products. In addition, should retailers get some hardcore off-roaders into their stores, Keystone has a supply of its branded products that can cater to those customers as well. "The Trail FX/ brand is a perfect example of this," says Lathouris. "It was developed in response to a changing marketplace. We began with bumpers, grille guards, and side steps, and then added items such as wheels and a high-quality recovery winch line for those retailers who have grown their Jeep® customer base. This variety gives jobbers high-quality products, that also satisfies consumer demands. It also allows Keystone to provide for reasonable support. In addition, these items are not just for Jeep®s, but can also be sold for fleets and work-trucks. So there's always ways to move product off the shelves."

As with any new market, retailers are often fearful of stocking new products and not being able to properly communicate with their customers. For those retailers, Lathouris has some suggestions on how to easily transition into selling Jeep® products. "The first thing any retailer should do is attend a Jeep® show to see what parts are popular and who the customers are. Right now there's a Jeep® show or gathering every weekend so it's easy to find something local," says Lathouris. "Retailers can also get online and see what Jeep® people are talking about, and what products they are interested in."

In addition, one of the easiest ways that Keystone can help retailers over their fears is to provide marketing materials and the company's 150 page Jeep® catalog. "At Keystone, we can supply retailers with popular products such as soft-tops, roof racks and any other item that are hot sellers right now," says Lathouris. "We also provide website support, marketing materials, and our Jeep® catalog can sit on the counter with the retailer's name on it. Customers can pick out what they want from the catalog and get it quickly without the retailer having to make any major inventory investment. The catalog is well thought out and is lifestyle specific, so new Jeep® customers to experienced off-roaders will find something they like."

While some retailers think that the Jeep® market has reached its peak, most believe it's not even near that point. "What the truck a retailer should pay attention to, is the amount of vehicles being sold," says Lathouris. "The data tells us that more Jeep®s are being sold year after year. It's a very vibrant and growing market in which the brand has been established and goes through a constant evolution." While the data shows that the Jeep® craze is still in full swing, it's important to jump in on the trends. With support from WDs and manufacturers, selling Jeep® products will continue to be profitable for retailers who added them to their inventory.

Chicago, IL (July 9, 2015) - LKQ Corporation (Nasdaq: LKQ) and The Coast Distribution System, Inc. (NYSE MKT: CRV) today announced that they have signed a definitive agreement for LKQ to acquire Coast for $5.50 per share in cash. Coast is a leading distributor of replacement parts, supplies and accessories for recreational vehicles (RVs) primarily to retail parts and supplies stores, service and repair establishments, and new and used RV dealers in North America. Under the terms of the definitive agreement, a subsidiary of LKQ will commence a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Coast’s common stock for $5.50 per share in cash. The tender offer is required to be commenced within 10 business days and to remain open for at least 20 business days after launch.

The consummation of the tender offer is subject to satisfaction of customary conditions, including that the holders of at least a majority of Coast’s outstanding shares accept the offer. Any shares not tendered in the offer will be acquired, following consummation of the tender offer, in a second step merger at the same cash price as in the tender offer. The acquisition is currently expected to close in the third quarter of 2015. Coast's Board of Directors has unanimously recommended that Coast stockholders accept the offer and tender their shares. Total cash consideration payable for Coast’s outstanding shares is approximately $29 million. As of June 30, 2015 Coast had $19.5 million outstanding under its long-term revolving bank line of credit.

“The combination of Coast with our Specialty segment and RV business presents tremendous distribution and logistics synergies with our existing network, and expands our RV business with the addition of unique product offerings and brands,” stated Robert L. Wagman, President and Chief Executive Officer of LKQ Corporation.

Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated and Duff & Phelps, LLC are acting as financial advisors to The Coast Distribution System, Inc. in this transaction.

About LKQ Corporation

LKQ Corporation (www.lkqcorp.com) is a leading provider of alternative and specialty parts to repair and accessorize automobiles and other vehicles. LKQ has operations in North America, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Scandinavia, Australia and Taiwan. LKQ offers its customers a broad range of replacement systems, components, equipment and parts to repair and accessorize automobiles, trucks, and recreational and performance vehicles.

About The Coast Distribution System, Inc.

The Coast Distribution System, Inc. (www.coastdistribution.com) is one of North America's largest wholesale aftermarket suppliers of replacement parts, supplies and accessories for the recreational vehicle (RV) and outdoor recreation markets. Coast supplies more than 14,000 products through 17 distribution centers located in the United States and Canada. Coast's customers consist of independently-owned RV dealers, supply stores and service centers.

Additional Information

The tender offer described in this news release has not yet commenced. This news release and the description contained herein is neither an offer to purchase nor a solicitation of an offer to sell shares of Coast Distribution System, Inc. At the time the tender offer is commenced, LKQ and its wholly owned subsidiary, KAO Acquisition Sub, Inc., intend to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) a Tender Offer Statement on Schedule TO containing an offer to purchase, a form of letter of transmittal and other documents relating to the tender offer, and Coast intends to file with the SEC a Solicitation/Recommendation Statement on Schedule 14D-9 with respect to the tender offer. LKQ, KAO Acquisition Sub and Coast intend to mail these documents to the stockholders of Coast. These documents will contain important information about the tender offer and stockholders of Coast are urged to read them carefully when they become available. Stockholders of Coast will be able to obtain a free copy of these documents (when they become available) and other documents filed by Coast, LKQ or KAO Acquisition Sub with the SEC at the website maintained by the SEC at www.sec.gov. In addition, stockholders will be able to obtain a free copy of these documents (when they become available) from the information agent named in the offer to purchase or from LKQ.

Forward Looking Statements

Certain statements in this press release that are not historical facts are forward looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward looking statements generally include expectations, beliefs, hopes, intentions or strategies regarding our future, including with respect to the proposed transaction described and statements or assumptions regarding the expected timetable for completing the transaction, financial and operating results, benefits and synergies of the transaction, and other statements that are based on management's current beliefs and expectations of the company and the combined businesses. Forward looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors some of which are not currently known to us. Actual events or results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward looking statements as a result of various factors. Some of such risks, uncertainties and other factors are described in LKQ’s and Coast’s annual reports on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2014 and in subsequently filed quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. We assume no obligation to publicly update any forward looking statement to reflect events or circumstances arising after the date on which it was made, except as required by law.

Attending Wholesale Events Like Keystone's BIG Show Can Lead To Success

It’s show season. And once again, Keystone Automotive Operations, the largest North American distributor of specialty auto products, offered its customers and the manufacturing community one of the most extensive wholesale-only buying opportunities in the industry. Known as the Keystone BIG Show, the event has grown in size, scope, quality, customer and manufacturer participation, as well as aftermarket influence, since its inception in 1999.

From the original venue in Secaucus, New Jersey, later expanded to Atlantic City, Keystone now hosts two first-class events annually. This year, the BIG Show was held in February at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The March event took place at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas. "We’ve witnessed the show run out of floor space and outgrow the original venue in Secaucus,” said Mike Katz, national account manager at Werner Co. “Being the primary sponsor of the BIG Show in Dallas, (afforded) Weather Guard®/KNAACK® the opportunity to team up with Keystone and create an exciting marketing campaign leading up to and through the event.”

How Continued Growth Benefits Attendees

Regardless the size of a business or its focus -- off-road, truck accessory or performance -- the BIG Show covers it all. “There’s something for everyone, from a mom-and-pop shop to a large retail chain,” said Chuck Morrison IV, family partner at Truck’n America in Waldorf, Maryland. “The BIG Shows happen at the perfect time of year when new vehicles and products are being released. We’re able to gather market information, build our inventory for the remainder of the year, and get our shelves stocked nicely after the winter,” he added.

Hundreds of the industry’s top manufacturers exhibit at the BIG Shows to share current trends, as well as showcase new vehicles, product releases and applications. Bestop, TrailFX, Edelbrock, Magnaflow and Mickey Thompson were among the many recognizable names in attendance. Others, such as Black Mountain Jeep®, are new to the BIG Show scene and used it as a platform to garner support for their brand and to meet retailers.

Kurt Gassen, owner of Topper World Truck Accessories, Gretna, Louisiana, was looking to expand his Jeep product lineup. “We’re working on a custom Jeep build, so the show is very beneficial to learn about new and existing products from an install standpoint and get others’ opinions. We purchased Black Mountain Jeep products for the first time, and they went out of their way to send us a thank you and some merchandise,” said Gassen. Such acts of appreciation embody what the BIG Show represents: an opportunity to learn, interact and grow together long term.

Thousands of fellow Keystone customers, their families and employees attended the events to take advantage of the impressive manufacturer presence, show specials, giveaways and cash incentives, business-building, networking and in-store merchandising opportunities, as well as custom vehicles and celebrity appearances.

“My favorite aspect of the show as a manufacturer is being able to directly influence and capture the sale with the jobber by showcasing new, innovative products, providing product knowledge and demonstrations, as well as offering exciting promotions the day of the show,” said Katz.

Additionally, the shows offered retailers an outlet to connect with other professionals, enjoy the exciting atmosphere, and meet the sales and management teams committed to customer business growth.

“It’s a great opportunity to get out from behind the counter, meet the people you’re doing business with and put a face with a name,” said Morrison.

Gassen believes the BIG Shows provide an opportunity for retailers to connect personally and professionally, share best business practices and engage with manufacturers the old-fashioned way: face-to-face. He made an important connection, critical to his business short and long term. “Personal relationships go further than price points,” said Gassen.

We couldn’t agree more. Customer attendance is at the very core of BIG Show success. On behalf of Keystone and all participating manufacturers, our sincere gratitude for their commitment and enthusiasm for this exciting industry, our company and the continued success of the Keystone BIG Shows.

 

LINE-X Protective Coatings and Keystone Automotive Operations have agreed to terms on a new partnership. As the exclusive accessories distributor of LINE-X, Keystone will be the only supplier of LINE-X's Truck Gear line.

Keystone will offer streamlined logistics support to LINE-X dealers through a dedicated distribution network and will open the door to a greater variety of future Truck Gear products and accessories, according to LINE-X.

"With the support of Keystone,” said Kevin Heronimus, CEO of LINE-X, “LINE-X franchises will gain greater availability of top-branded accessories with dedicated customer support."

Benefits of the exclusive partnership, according to LINE-X include:

• Broad distribution network to over 450 LINE-X franchises throughout North America
• Greater availability of top branded accessories from Keystone
• Greater potential products for the Truck Gear brand
Focusing On Product Placement And Employees Can Make A Real Difference In Your Sales

Showroom experts constantly gather shopping information in order to maximize the potential for customers to see and purchase products from your retail store's shelves. While this has become almost a science for supermarkets, many of the same basic fundamentals for automotive aftermarket retailers is the same. Stefanie Zalutko, from Keystone Automotive Operations Inc., offers eight tips that have been compiled from working with many truck accessory retailers. Utilizing some of these tips can, in some cases, dramatically increase sales simply by arranging and making seasonal products more visible.

  1. Focus on the product being displayed – it is KING!
  2. Incorporate market trends, new products, new applications, best-selling, seasonal and clearance products into the rotation of store merchandising.
  3. Merchandising options are endless: end caps, in-store displays, window clings, posters, shelf talkers, glass displayers, slat wall, overhead directional and supplier signage, carpets, counter mats, wall space, kiosks, gondolas, pegboard, appropriate props, etc. Consider what combination of options best suites the store and utilize every inch of space without making it look and feel cluttered.
  4. Maintain consumer line of sight. Shy away from showcasing brown or white box packaging and display the product prominently to encourage an interactive experience whenever possible.
  5. Avoid consumer confusion and anxiety by maintaining a clean, organized and presentable storefront with windows that shine, an entry that is inviting, floors that sparkle, as well as product that is competitively priced and showcased with like items.
  6. Focus on the human senses, especially an effective use of color, lighting, music, product segmentation, display and demonstration, directional signage and aisle presentation.
  7. Invest in the employees, as they are the face of any business. Sporting sleek uniforms, participating in continued education and training, as well as enhancing customer engagement are integral, should be taken seriously and executed properly in order to positively promote a retailer’s brand identity. According to Forbes Magazine, getting the customer to invest substantial time in the retail experience, especially for larger purchases, is a key factor in increased consumer purchase conversion rates. This means money in your pocket! Employee engagement is the biggest contributor to achieving this so invest, invest, invest in the people.
  8. Retailers should recognize, evaluate and adopt best practice merchandising standards. There is a reason certain practices are considered benchmarks and while customization and differentiation are essential tools in any successful process, reinventing the entire wheel is not always the right approach; rather, a little fine tuning may be all that is necessary.
 
Partnering With A Warehouse Distributor: A Recipe For Growth

Wholesalers serve as an integral partner in the traditional three-step distribution model within the specialty auto products market space. Their role is to facilitate business relations between the manufacturing community and retailers and restylers, connecting those they serve with the purchasing power of end consumers. As business builders, the goal of any wholesale distributor is to enhance the purchasing experience for customers by providing access to comprehensive inventory levels, a reliable logistics and delivery system, dependable technological tools and friendly, knowledgeable customer support.

But there is one thing that all players in the automotive aftermarket need in order to be successful — consumer demand. Fortunately, 2014 was a strong year in the automotive industry, up 5.8 percent in sales in comparison to 2013, with predictions standing tall in 2015. According to Reuters, “U.S. auto sales will end the year strongly, as December sales will be 10.4 percent higher than a year ago. U.S. auto sales will hit 17 million in 2015 for the first time since 2001,” said representatives of JD Power & Associates and LMC Automotive. These statistics paint a positive picture for wholesale distribution channels, allowing for stronger, more aggressive investments in inventory, infrastructure, programs and people.

Depth And Breadth Of Inventory

Whether in business as an independent storefront or installation center, a national or regional auto parts chain, or an e-commerce seller, a wholesale distributor has the key manufacturing relationships that offer access to thousands of brands and an even more impressive portfolio of products. Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc., one of the largest and leading wholesale distributors in the specialty auto products market space, stocks products from more than 800 manufacturers and 300,000-plus SKUs to best serve the needs of its customers. These manufacturers and product categories are organized into market segments, which are managed by a team of automotive experts who execute first-to-market initiatives — including new lines, new products and new applications — monitor regional and national trends, as well as forecast and analyze product demand to maintain high service levels, so customers have the ultimate product fulfillment experience. Wholesale distributors do the legwork so manufacturers can focus their efforts on filling the pipeline with innovative product development, and retailers and installers can fulfill customer demand while growing their businesses.

Logistics And Delivery

In an environment where end consumers have various online and brick-and-mortar options available to them, all wholesale distributors understand the importance of capturing demand. Consistent, dependable delivery and customer service is of immense importance to help retailers and restylers close the sale at the point of a customer purchase.Keystone has developed a robust and sophisticated logistics system that operates via highly reliable and route-based fulfillment networks. Its six warehouses and nearly 50 cross-dock locations are strategically positioned throughout the country to best meet the delivery demands of customers throughout North America. Keystone customers have the greatest variety of product selection, enjoy later product order cut-off times and earlier deliveries, as well as experience personalized driver delivery, returns and pick-ups. Doing business with a wholesale distributor ensures you have the product you need, when you need it most — no matter how large or small the order is. Retailers are able to better manage cash flow and meet customer demands by receiving smaller, more frequent deliveries versus placing large orders with a single manufacturer.

Industry Support Services

Warehouse distributors encourage employees to roll up their sleeves and get right in the action by working closely alongside those being serviced. Distributors will do whatever possible to help drive sales for both the manufacturer as well as the business owner, from employing stellar people who are enthusiastic about the industry, providing next-day delivery services to maximize customer service, offering unique marketing programs to grow a retailer’s business and developing innovative technology that improves efficiency and effectiveness.Keystone customers experience real-time selling assistance with marketing and inventory tools such as e-Keystone, designed to provide jobbers with purchasing power 24/7; modern year, make, model lookup and smart-search technology; detailed product applications, features and benefits; as well as discount positions, promotions and inventory levels. Start 2015 With A BangIn the end, how long a store or installation center has been in operation and the amount of revenue it pulls in per fiscal year has no bearing on a jobber’s ability to experience the vast benefits of doing business with a warehouse distributor. Say goodbye to doing things the hard way, and partner with a WD that can not only deliver inventory, but also a solid platform for growth in 2015.

  • 12/6/2014 12:00:00 AM

CHICAGO, Jan 06, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE via COMTEX) -- LKQ Corporation today announced that it has completed its previously announced acquisition of Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. ("Keystone"), a leading distributor and marketer of specialty aftermarket equipment and accessories in North America.

Keystone has over 1,500 employees with 25 locations serving more than 20,000 specialty retailers and equipment installers throughout North America, offering a broad product line of over 300,000 SKUs from over 800 suppliers. Keystone distributes products to serve the following six category segments: truck and off-road; speed and performance; recreational vehicle; towing; wheels, tires and performance handling; and miscellaneous accessories.

"We are delighted to complete the acquisition of Keystone, and excited about LKQ's further entry into the specialty aftermarket equipment and accessories business. Keystone's leading market position, unparalleled distribution network, exceptional management team and diversified product offerings will play crucial roles in our efforts to grow LKQ's presence in this highly fragmented industry," stated Robert L. Wagman, President and Chief Executive Officer of LKQ Corporation.

The acquisition became effective January 3, 2014.

About LKQ Corporation

LKQ Corporation (www.lkqcorp.com) is the largest nationwide provider of alternative collision replacement parts and a leading provider of recycled engines and transmissions and remanufactured engines, all in connection with the repair of automobiles and other vehicles. LKQ also has operations in the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Guatemala and Costa Rica. LKQ operates more than 500 facilities, offering its customers a broad range of replacement systems, components and parts to repair automobiles and light, medium and heavy-duty trucks.

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Business Building For The Ages

Pros Weigh In On Growth Opportunities At SEMA Show 2016

Where else can you spend four days wowed by outrageous custom vehicles and celebrity appearances, as well as rub shoulders with more than 2,400 exhibiting manufacturers and 60,000-plus domestic and international buyers? The SEMA Show, of course!

As the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world, SEMA provides retailers and restylers with the convenience of having many industry influencers under one roof and the freedom to explore those brands without an obligation to purchase on site.

Aftermarket manufacturers and OEMs are eager to woo attendees with vehicles and products that showcase excellence in engineering, fabrication, and design, and they spare no expense unveiling the next generation of innovative concepts. In fact, more than 2,500 newly introduced parts, tools and components will be on display in the New Products Showcase this year. These benefits lie at the feet of attendees as means to bolster sales, profit, diversification and relationship-building opportunities throughout the year.

So it goes without saying that a retailer or restyler’s attendance offers many benefits that far exceed a few days on the Show floor. Ron DiVincenzo, general manager of Cap World in Melrose, Mass., urges people to attend the SEMA Show with a sense of purpose. “Be ready to engage. Otherwise, you will wander the Show floor aimlessly in awe of everything you see. Vegas is a fun town, but don’t forget why you are there. Use this as a time to network with your peers, and be a sponge, soaking up everything you possibly can,” he said.

Keystone Automotive Operations -- the leading and largest wholesale distributor of specialty aftermarket parts and equipment in North America -- is a proud SEMA member and Show exhibitor for more than 20 years. To provide retailers and restylers with some veteran guidance and words of wisdom while attending the SEMA Show, Keystone teamed up with a few seasoned industry professionals. Here’s what they had to say.

 

Speaking From Experience

Kathryn Reinhardt, MagnaFlow marketing manager and 2015 SEMA Person of the Year

- The New Products Showcase is a great place to start. This is where all the manufacturers dream of winning the best new product of the year and hope to impress buyers with the next best thing.

- Attend the manufacturers’ press conferences, which are no longer just for press. Get the inside scoop, witness car unveilings and hear about new products and new partnerships.

- Consider going to the LTAA media day on Monday, Oct. 31, (open to registered media only) to see some of the top manufacturers’ products before the show even begins. It’s an ideal time to have those one-on-one talks that sometimes can’t happen on the Show floor.

- Attend after-hours events! Tuesday, Nov. 1 is the YEN reception, Wednesday is the LTAA reception and Thursday is the SEMA Banquet. All are sponsored by SEMA with drinks and food, and all are prime places to meet rising stars in the industry.

 

Ryan Herman, executive VP, Extang, TruXedo, Advantage Truck Accessories, Retrax and BAK

- Each retailer and restyler should take stock in his or her business and be perceptive of new opportunities to grow. What areas are doing well? What areas could use help? Are there any new trends to consider?

- Once pen is to paper and there is a set plan for attending, then make sure to review the itinerary carefully. Really consider the companies that are most important to visit and be sure to allow enough time to talk to the right people.

- Pack a snack when taking time to visit the New Products Showcase -- there are an awful lot of great products to see!

- Consider bringing an empty suitcase to hold all of the materials gathered during the Show, or bring some pre-printed FedEx or UPS forms and envelopes to ship the materials home/to the store each evening.

- Bring plenty of business cards and be sure to collect just as many from those you meet along the way!

 

Maximizing Your Show Experience

George Lathouris, director of U.S. sales, Keystone Automotive Operations

- Get on the SEMA Show website and make sure to identify who is an absolute must, to connect with and where the companies are located. Then schedule appointments accordingly by hall to ensure face-to-face time with those most important to your business. This approach avoids wasting precious time walking back and forth between North, South and Central Halls.

- Spend time at the OE manufacturers’ booths to see what platforms they are focusing on and how that affects the aftermarket and a shop’s future business.

- Swipe the SEMA Show (buyer) card to have manufacturers send catalogs after the Show -- carrying all those books can slow anyone down.

 

Kevin Krieg, owner, S&K Speed Racing Equipment, Lindenhurst, NY

- Think about the business goals for attending the Show and stick to the priorities.

- Consider taking a few people, so everyone can spread out and cover as much ground as possible individually. Assign specific tasks to everyone attending within the group and don’t stay at one place too long.

- Plan to be at the Show from day one through the very end -- from the time the doors open until closing in order to maximize the exposure.

- Avoid the Vegas temptation of late nights and drinking at the casinos. Everyone is here to do business -- be ready to strike early, meet up with current vendors to put names with faces, and be open to new things, new lines and new people (to help grow your business).

 

Charlie Card, owner, Vehicle Accessories Inc., Flint, Mich.

- Map out all appointments via the SEMA Show floor plan or the app to maximize time spent on the floor and minimize the time spent walking -- wear good walking shoes!

- Go to the receptions that match up to your business (LTAA, PRO, WTC, etc.). Get involved and meet people who know the industry.

- Don't discount the importance of training classes and seminars.

- Failing to consider crossover products will cost any shop additional business. Being open to diversification doesn’t mean changing one’s core competency -- just complement it!

 

Additional Facts

According to SEMA:

80% of attendees are primarily interested in seeing new products.

78% of attendees want to ignite ideas.

72% of attendees are set on keeping up with trends.

60 percent and 65 percent of attendees respectively want to connect with existing customers or seek new vendor partnerships.

 

What Keystone Is Up To At SEMA

Visit the Keystone team and its affiliate booths for a chance to win a prize!

Keystone Automotive Operations: Central Hall, Booth 21249

FX Products: South Hall, Booth 34091

FX Vehicle: Outside South Hall, Space 542

Coast to Coast: South Hall, Booth 33091

 

One On One With Keystone’s George Lathouris

Keystone's George Lathouris shares his 38 years of experience, and discusses the growing Jeep® market

Industry veteran and 2013 SEMA Person of the Year George Lathouris has vast experience in the off-road market. Specifically, the knowledge he has acquired about all things Jeep® make him an asset to the Keystone category management and sales teams, as well as to the industry at large. Here he shares some of his 38 years of industry wisdom.

Q: The Jeep® market is always bumping, so what makes this year any different?

Lathouris: First, the Jeep® network just continues to broaden as more and more mainstream consumers get involved. Second, high-quality products are in and low-quality products are out. Retailers and restylers stand behind trusted brands. Consumers want the brand names that look good and last longer, so they’re willing to spend bigger bucks for the quality upgrades. Third, adaptability is a huge trend. Consumers want products that accommodate multiple lifestyles, from convertible tops and safari doors to exterior cargo management.

Q: How do you help your sales team stay abreast of the ever-changing and ever-growing Jeep® market?

Lathouris: We encourage key manufacturers to conduct sales training in our call centers regularly. We promote national, regional and community Jeep® events, and support our associates’ attendance. We recently joined the Off Road Business Association (ORBA) to get more engaged in this ever-growing marketplace. We also have a teacher-pupil model in the call centers, so those who are considered experts in the Jeep® and off road market segment serve as educators to their peers -- the go-to person about all things Jeep®.

Q: Do you ever anticipate an end to the Jeep® craze?

Lathouris: No. It’ll continue to provide growth for the aftermarket. Introducing the new JK with the four-door option in 2007 changed the dynamic, providing families with a fun and functional vehicle, and Jeep® with explosive sales growth. It’s attractive, versatile and now a family-friendly option that has expanded Jeep®’s reach. It’s added new wind in their sails. In addition to the expanding first and second owner JK market, the TJs are highly desirable for many off road enthusiasts. So the aftermarket potential will truly be a long term ride for all of us.

 

The Legend Lives On

Jeep® Is More Than Just A Brand -- It’s A Lifestyle

Seventy-five years and still going strong, we salute an iconic brand that made its debut as a wartime hero and successfully transitioned from battlefield performance to an alluring lifestyle, both on- and off-road. It’s fascinating how something so utilitarian simultaneously represents individuality, empowerment and adventure, evoking a sense of pride and unity among a community of diehard loyalists, while maintaining its exclusive status. All because they’ve managed to sell a lifestyle, not a product.

Few execute at the level of Jeep® and even fewer brands balance a global impact with social responsibility. The current tag line -- “We Don’t Make Jeep®. You Do” -- is a humbling nod to loyalists around the world, because anything is possible behind the wheel of a Jeep®.

Jeep® has succeeded both quantitatively and qualitatively, from global brand recognition to impressive unit sales and more. In 2015, Fiat Chrysler reported a record-breaking year. Not only were annual sales up seven percent, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth, but Jeep models also increased 42 percent collectively, experienced unprecedented sales in the U.S., and had its best December to date.

Jeep® steamrolled into 2016 and drove FCA profits during the first quarter. An impressive 15 percent year-over-year sales gain marked 72-plus months in an upward trajectory, with Wrangler continuing to lead the way. Yet, the sales are merely a profitable byproduct of an even bigger feat. Jeep® has evolved into an international phenomenon with significant influence over consumer demand, touting a rugged appeal that transcends societal demographics.

What makes the Jeep® such a commanding consumer purchase? In part, its ability to attract everyone from mainstream consumers and general car enthusiasts to outdoor lifestylers and hardcore rock crawlers, commented industry veteran George Lathouris, Keystone’s director of U.S. sales. “Until 2007,”said Corby Phillips, Warn Industries’ national sales manager, “we were accustomed to the 2-door sport utility of Jeep®s of the past,” which had a more limited consumer base. “With the release of the JK 4-door, it appealed to a whole new buyer,” he added. “You now see more women than ever piloting their own JK and jumping into the lifestyle. The new Jeep® platform offers extra space and convenience, and truly marks a new era for the brand.”

For an insider look at the current ins and outs of the Jeep® market, Keystone, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of aftermarket parts in North America, teamed up with some of its customers, sales associates and accessory manufacturers.

Why Jeep®?Jeeping ni Moab

Racecar aficionado Enzo Ferrari once said, "Jeep® is America's only real sports car." It’s true, kind of. Synonymous with freedom, the Jeep® brand is an experience, an adventure. It offers enthusiasts a similar thrill in a top-back, doors-off, monster-truck tires sort of way, but is exhilarating nonetheless. “Jeep®s are a fun vehicle to drive, plain and simple. It’s a vehicle that’s easily accessible to consumers, and it’s a highly customizable option that truly offers something for everyone, whether someone is building it to tackle Moab trails or just wants to take the doors off, add a bikini top and cruise,” said Ryan Osborne, off-road enthusiast and Keystone sales associate in Greensboro, NC. There are no limitations to its appeal, and that alone spells cash for retailers and restylers.

Ricky Artes, owner of Jeepers Den, Orlando, Florida, has been living the Jeep® lifestyle since 1995 and transformed his hobby into a business venture in 2003. The rest is history. Jeepers Den is booked solid for months at a time and experiences double-digit growth every year. While it’s a Jeep® specialty shop, Artes and his team can fix or customize any vehicle. “We believe in doing business the right way. We’re honest, provide great customer service, treat people kindly, and build awesome Jeeps,” said Artes.

Why Diversify?

There are very few shops that operate within a silo anymore. Modern means smart diversification to increase inventory margins and bolster profit potential. Archie’s Off Road & Performance Center in Wells, ME, has been thriving for 34 years. The company quickly learned the benefits of diversification during the 2008 economic downturn, rounding out its offerings in retail, enhancing installation capabilities and taking advantage of market trends, such as the steady and reliable Jeep business. “The Jeep® market has grown tremendously, and we don't see it changing any time soon, as Jeep® is the number-one accessorized vehicle in the market,” said owners Archie and Julie Stevens. “They have done a great job continuously reinventing the brand to appeal to a wide variety of consumers. You can have a hardcore off-road Jeep®, one that dominates at the drag strip, appeals to a pavement princess, rides at the beach or pleases a soccer Mom.”

What’s Hot?

Rapto Worx HandlesHow many products and at what cost to build a rig that can withstand the assault of harsh landscapes? Accessorizing a Jeep® doesn’t need to be a tug of war between quantity versus quality. “The brands and products continue to evolve, but the main, core focus of the Jeep® market remains the same,” said Rhonda Pilto, a West Coast-based Keystone sales associate. And this consistency offers retailers and restylers a level of stability when investing in inventory.

Keystone offers its customers access to hundreds of aftermarket manufacturers that produce quality products at an affordable price point and for those who want the premium treatment, well, they have that too!

Archie’s Off Road purchases plenty of JKS, Fab Fours, Pro Comp, ReadyLIFT, Mickey Thompson, Toyo, Super Swampers, Skyjacker, Smittybilt, WARN, Crown Automotive, Hypertech, Superchips, Edge, Magnaflow, MBRP, K&N and aFe from Keystone. Jeepers Den kicks out its fair sharBestop Sunrider Tope of TeraFlex, Factor 55, Rancho, BOLT high-lift mounts and fender flares of various brands. “Lifts, wheels, tires, bumpers and LED lighting continue to drive Jeep® aftermarket sales for my customers in the Upper Plains region,” said Jeff Grega, a Keystone sales associate with experience in the Northeast and Midwest regions. “But one of my favorite new products is the Bestop Sunrider, which is an all-weather replacement for bulky freedom panels on factory hardtops.”

Keystone’s Osborne agreed that Bestop’s new product is a game changer. “We anticipate this to be a hot seller in the Southeast areas, states that see sunny weather most times, but benefit from having a hard top (during) some poor conditions throughout the year.” In Texas, it’s go big or go home. “Texas continues to knock out the 3.5-inch lift and 35-inch tire option as its go-to, or adding flat fender flares to get even larger tires stuffed under their rigs,” said Erich Ross, Texas-based Keystone sales manager. “LED headlight replacements are still very popular as well, and I think Jeep® owners are always looking for new and innovative ways to carry bicycles, kayaks, etc. to promote their outdoor lifestyle, so cargo-management options are important, too.”

So how do aftermarket manufacturers produce game-changing products year after year? “Rugged Ridge is always in motion to remain successful,” said Northeast Sales Manager Ray Weaver. “Everyone from marketing to engineering contributes and everyone shares in the company’s success. We’re not afraid to try new things and if something isn’t working, we’re not afraid to change course either. Our new C3 Cargo Cover, Exo-Top and stamped steel bumpers are unique, functional and give the consumers what they want.”

Why Merchandise?

As Jeep® gears up for its 2017-2018 launch, aftermarket manufacturers are ready to pump out even more dynamic product. “New models always represent a sales opportunity and Jeep® will be introducing a redesigned Wrangler soon. Our engineers already are implementing a strategy so that Rugged Ridge can be first to market with several products,” said Weaver. “One nice thing about the Wranglers is they pass through several owners, each wanting to add their own modifications. As a manufacturer, distributor, retailer or restyler, this offers several bites of the apple so to speak,” he added.

Failing to merchandise a showroom properly can result in missed opportunities with new and repeat consumers. Keystone’s Pilto believes in the power of displays, always reminding her customers about the importance of allowing consumers to use their senses to interact with the product they want to purchase.

“Displays sell product! They trigger a consumer response since they can look, touch and judge the quality right in front of them. When consumers shop online or out of a catalog, they have to rely on pictures, descriptions and reviews,” said WARN’s Phillips.

It’s also a perfect opportunity to upsell, he added. “If you’re selling a WARN winch, then merchandise winching accessories near the winch display and help a Jeep® consumer make the most of their purchase. WARN offers a rigging/accessory bag that comes with a snatch block, 2 d-ring shackles, an 8’ tree strap, winching gloves and a 30’ tow strap -- everything they need to get unstuck!”

Jeep® -- An Aftermarket Game Changer

Shop owners and aftermarket manufacturers that continue to engineer, market and sell quality products perpetuate the success of the Jeep® brand. Continue to ensure generation after generation of Jeepers have access to the most innovative aftermarket products, so they can trail blaze an individualized path and explore, pushing boundaries both on- and off-road.

 

Keystone Hosts Auto, RV Clients at Open House

Exeter, PA.-based Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. (KAO) had previously announced the opening of its sprawling, 360,000-square-foot Brownstown, Mich., warehouse, which has been shipping parts and accessories orders to independent automotive retailers and RV parts and accessories clients since last fall. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com page linked above).

But the company’s new “Great Lakes Warehouse” got a more public initiation on Saturday (June 25) when Keystone, led by several senior executives, welcomed more than 100 customers for a casual meet-and-greet session plus lunch and tours of the facility just south of metropolitan Detroit after which attendees joined the “Keystone Team” for a Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians baseball game.

Also in attendance were a handful of supplier exhibitors, including bed-cover maker Truck Hero Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., and hitch manufacturer Cequent Performance Products Inc., Plymouth, Mich.

KAO’s Brownstown facility, now one of seven key warehouses positioned nationally for a company that bills itself as the world’s largest automotive parts and accessories distributor, is designed to service primary Brownstown Open Housecross-dock fulfillment locations in places like Akron, Ohio, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Mich., and to speed deliveries throughout the north-central U.S. and parts of Ontario.

“I think the most important thing for us to get across is that we’ve always serviced this region as a company,” explained George Lathouris, director of U.S. automotive sales for KAO, a unit of Chicago-based LKQ Corp. “But we needed this facility and the inventory that’s inside it to do a better job here because of the growth and expansion that we’ve been experiencing as an organization. We just needed more square footage.

“So, instead of adding onto an existing facility, we put our merchandise closer to the customer, so they’re getting great order fill – quickly without a lot of transferring – coming right out of this facility directly to their stores.”

And while a clear majority of Keystone’s business is automotive — as were most of Saturday’s open house guests — KAO spokesmen indicate they’ve made a lot of progress lately in integrating the RV parts and accessories businesses added over the past two to three years with the acquisitions of North America’s three largest two-step RV distributors, including Oregon-based NTP Distribution Inc., Atlanta’s Stag-Parkway Inc. and, last August, The Coast Distribution System Inc., Morgan Hill, Calif.

In fact, Lathouris told RVBUSINESS.com that RV dealer parts and accessories deliveries are now part and parcel of KAO’s daily routine, with many delivery trucks now fitted with large “cannon tubes” for handling RV awnings and moldings. And, he noted, the overall impact has been a positive for a business built on volume deliveries across the country.

“I think it’s been great for the (overall Keystone) organization because it gives us the opportunity to offer varied products and, let’s just say, frequency of delivery because the increased volume in the organization gives us the opportunity to service all of our customers better – more cross-docks, more trucks, more inventory, more people,” said Lathouris, who’s based out of Corona, Calif. “It’s a situation where we can take care of more customers in a more effective fashion.”

Now that the integration of NTP and STAG has been completed, the main order of business on the RV side is to finish off the same process with Coast, a process that, according to John Ruch, vice president of fulfillment and logistics, should be finished in six months to a year.

“We’ve integrated or are in the process of integrating 13 of Coast’s 17 buildings,” said Ruch. “The four that are left are Fort Worth, Texas, Atlanta, Elkhart, Ind., and Visalia, Calif. And we’re going to continue through the rest of the year looking to see where we can provide better customer service by combining deliveries on our trucks and getting products more quickly out to our customers. We’re going to continue to integrate where we can, so there’s really no plan solidified yet on dates or anything. But we’ll just look to continue to provide that better customer service. By having everything consolidated, you have better inventory, better cut times and more consistent deliveries.”

Bottom line, Lathouris and Ruch agreed, RV parts and accessories are now part and parcel of what KAO does on a regular basis at all seven of its main warehouses.

“Our true value proposition is we take many different products, put them on one delivery truck and for one fee we drop off — one item or 20 items – a small part of the truck or the entire truck – for one fee — and the merchandise can come from any one of our seven locations direct to the customer,” said Lathouris. “The fact that it may be large and bulky and we can get it there so efficiently, I think, is some of the magic that we offer to the customer base. I think it’s worth noting.”

 

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