As the front line of the specialty-equipment industry, the jobber/retailer sees what is happening in the marketplace before nearly everyone else. SEMA has begun a targeted information-collection program aimed at industry jobber/retailers. The program involves attending industry WD events and visiting jobbers in their businesses and then reporting the findings monthly.
What we're currently hearing is that not all jobber/retailers’ businesses are really struggling. In fact, nearly 30% of the performance parts related jobber/retailers we have spoken to over the past six weeks say their business is up. Another 40% say their business is holding steady.
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Without a doubt, the number-one concern on the minds of these businesses is cash flow. As they are looking for information to help their businesses, the topics in some way are related to improving cash flow—topics such as space planning and merchandizing, business strategy and expense control.
When asked about current consumer trends, the number-one comment is that the casual consumer is gone, but the enthusiast is still buying. Jobber/retailers are seeing enthusiasts delay some of their purchases and, in some cases, buying less-expensive products.
When it comes to the product brands they select to sell, what their customers ask for is number one, but equally important is the technical support they get from the brand manufacturer.
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Some of the jobber/retailers we have talked with are changing their business focus in order to survive. For instance, there was a truck-accessory shop owner who has seen a host of his competitors go out of business and has resorted to targeting only fleet customers. Another one that specializes in custom upholstery shifted to restoration business when its car-dealer customers disappeared.
This information is just a small snapshot of what is going on right now. It is based on conversations with 21 jobber/retailers in our industry. — Jim Spoonhower
For more original market research, visit www.sema.org/research.