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Sept. 6, 2010 – Signs of aftermarket progress

September 6, 2010
Filed under Features

MADISON, Wis. — Fred Fox, the founder and CEO of what is believed to be the largest distributor in North America, sees a largely stabilizing aftermarket.

An aftermarket that is still in a slight decline for many companies, but one that is in much better shape than the industry at-large, Fox noted during his recent speech at the LeMans Corp. annual vendor showcase in Madison, Wis.

As has become custom to the vendors of national distributors Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties, Fox touched on a range of subjects during his hour-long overview of the aftermarket, including his company’s continued growth in Europe, the current business climate in North America and his corporation’s continued goals and practices.

“The aftermarket business generally isn’t down more than 10 percent,” Fox said, referring to the market segment in general, not to his particular business.

“A lot of them (aftermarket manufacturers) are down less. That’s not universal. Not every story is the same. Some are down 30 (percent). Some are down 40 (percent). That isn’t us. We’re not even near numbers like that.”

Fox did not provide specific sales numbers for LeMans Corp., but did note he doesn’t believe the significant declines seen in the recent past will continue at the same pace going forward.

“I think we’re in the low part of the curve,” he said, referring to the decline the U.S. economy has experienced in the past few years. “I don’t think we’re going to see much more than this. I don’t think we’re going to see declines in aftermarket sales.”

Fox notes his company has seen some positives already emerge this summer, including a healthy July and positive, early indications from August.

“If you’re down only 5-10 (percent), you’re in pretty good shape,” Fox said to the aftermarket suppliers. “If you’re down more than 20 percent, you have work to do.”

For LeMans Corp., Fox said the company continues to push its belief that corporate excellence comes from striving to improve on a daily basis.

“Every day we get out of bed, we’re trying to do everything better than we did it yesterday,” he said.

“We’re trying to preach that to the dealers: If you want to survive, you need to be better than other guys in your area.”

Fox said LeMans Corp. has seen improvement in a key industry area: dealer financial stability. He said LeMans is seeing almost nothing currently in bad debt from its dealers.

“None of us want to see dealers go out of business,” he said, noting LeMans is working to ensure consumer demand remains intact by financially supporting high-profile industry events, like the MotoGP series.

“We do things that other distributors aren’t doing. It’s really simple: We support the sport,” Fox said. “We try to create the market.”

LeMans Corp. has brought that message overseas, building a 200,000-square-foot warehouse in Germany, near the Luxembourg and French borders. Fox says Parts Europe now has roughly 100 brands in stock in Germany and expects that number to reach 150 by the spring.

The Germany location is the newest LeMans Corp. warehouse and by far its most advanced in terms of technology.

“Everything moves on, including distribution,” Fox said of warehouse improvements. “This isn’t a business where people run around with a hand truck anymore. It’s sophisticated.

“We’re people of execution and that’s what makes the company different from everybody else. And we’re going to continue to do that.” PSB

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