By Larry Northup, AAP, AWDA Executive Director, Senior Director, Community Engagement, Auto Care Association
Customers make AAPEX successful. Without people and companies to purchase the products on display, there would be no reason for exhibitors to attend the show.
Fortunately, AAPEX draws a huge number of buyers to Las Vegas each fall and among the most important are the hundreds of warehouse distributors who can be found walking the show floor. These companies are at the center of a massive supply chain that begins at manufacturing plants worldwide and ends with hundreds of thousands of vehicle repair facilities.
For 20 years, the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association (AWDA) has held its annual conference in conjunction with AAPEX. The conference is a key feature of events taking place during the week and a major draw for top warehouse distributors. In fact, as exhibitors prepare their show booths and aftermarket executives arrive in Las Vegas from around the globe, many of North America’s leading warehouse distributors are already meeting with suppliers large and small at the AWDA Annual Business Conference.
Warehouse distributors represent a direct link between parts manufacturers and the final, repair shop customers. A single warehouse can serve dozens of local parts stores and hundreds of repair shops. Their value to the supply chain is multi-faceted; from stocking an incredible range of parts and supplies – all available in hours or even minutes – to providing training, warranty service, marketing support and much more. Distributors’ reach, leverage and value are substantial.
Central to AWDA’s Conference are approximately 2,000 unique one-on-one business meetings that take place between nearly 100 top warehouse distribution companies and their closest vendor partners on Sunday and Monday, immediately prior to AAPEX. Participants are top decision-makers from AWDA member distributors, manufacturers, reps and other supporting companies. AWDA’s one-on-ones present possibly the most efficient way to conduct serious business during the week, but certainly they are not the only way.
AWDA’s Conference is intended specifically for channel partners that enjoy an existing business relationship. In fact, participating manufacturers must, at the time of registration, currently be selling product direct to seven (7) or more AWDA warehouse distributor members or be approved to sell through at least one (1) of the major Program Marketing Groups. AWDA’s Conference is not for casual buyers or sellers and does not lend itself to companies that are new to the traditional marketplace or who simply want to introduce themselves to a few distributors.
On the other hand, nearly all distributors who attend the AWDA Conference also spend time on the AAPEX Show floor following the conference. This represents a tremendous opportunity for exhibitors to showcase new products or services and tap into the growing market for DIFM parts.
So if existing business relationships do not currently exist between manufacturers and distributors, AAPEX is without question the best place to begin the process of creating them. With less than a month to go before AAPEX, now is the time to make contact with individual distributors and/or their program marketing groups. Prepare a “target list,” then make the effort to line up meetings on the AAPEX Show floor or, if you are an Auto Care Association member, in the Auto Care Member Center located adjacent to the show floor in the Sands Expo Center.
With billions of dollars in purchasing power at stake, traditional distribution can be an extremely lucrative market for the sale of parts and supplies. The distributor members of AWDA and the Program Groups to which they belong will be in Las Vegas this November and on the AAPEX Show floor. It’s up to individual exhibitors to contact them, understand their needs and convince them that their products are worth considering and ultimately purchasing.