SEMA News—March 2020

Market Research—Like GPS for Your Business

Chris Kersting

Chris Kersting

The need for this kind of information in our industry is considerable. The automotive specialty aftermarket has always required companies to adapt and innovate, and now at a more rapid pace than previously. Trends are emerging and receding; product offerings change more rapidly; and the ways specialty parts are marketed and purchased are also evolving over time.

To help businesses better navigate where they are today, where others are, and how best to get to a positive business outcome, the association’s market research team commissions and generates studies that both look at the industry as a whole and delve into specific sectors. The team also combs available outside data to tease out factors that would be relevant to the specialty-equipment industry in order to provide forward-looking data.

There are currently a number of new reports available for download, and SEMA provides them at no charge. One in particular—the monthly “SEMA Industry Indicators” report—looks at a wide range of factors, including new-vehicle sales, auto production statistics, consumer spending and overall economic growth, and it takes into account the strength of the U.S. dollar, interest rates and fuel prices.

As the new year opens, the most recent “SEMA Industry Indicators” report suggests that a broad recession does not appear imminent. Despite slower growth in the economy, American consumers remain optimistic, and underlying fundamentals, such as the labor market, are strong. However, 2019 was challenging for manufacturing. While ongoing uncertainties are beginning to resolve, global growth remains slow, and trade tensions remain high. These hurdles will likely continue to be obstacles in 2020. That said, one current trend toward a weaker dollar could be working on the plus side with regard to international trade.

Weighing these variables is not an exact science, but the SEMA market research team is always happy to work with members who have questions about how to interpret the data with regard to their own businesses.

Another newly released report, the “SEMA Retail Landscape Report,” dives into the ways in which retailers are facing and adapting to a range of business challenges. Today, our industry’s independent retailers are dealing with a rapidly changing business environment. Increased online competition and its effect on consumer expectations and behavior are key shifts with a widespread impact on retail. The “SEMA Retail Landscape Report” offers insights into where opportunities lie for retailers to adapt and become more effective. It paints a picture of how small retailers can stand out from bigger competitors and points to factors that retailers think will shape the industry moving forward.

Specifically, the study found that the majority of the more than 3,000 SEMA-member retailers are primed for continued growth. As long predicted, the internet and e-commerce are becoming normal aspects of doing business, with many brick-and-mortar specialty retailers selling products online or using the internet to advertise and promote their businesses.

Overall, our current research suggests that we can expect a mainly healthy economic year for American small businesses. While there are a few factors with the potential to alter this picture, it appears that the specialty aftermarket will benefit as consumer confidence remains positive.

I urge you to review the latest SEMA market reports, form your own conclusions and then utilize future SEMA reports to help adjust your plans accordingly. If you haven’t taken advantage of SEMA research, make it a habit to visit to download the latest studies and add another tool to help your business succeed and prosper.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association may be best known for producing the SEMA Show, but the association also provides a broad range of resources to the industry—often resources that might otherwise be unaffordable to a small business. One of the most important is the ongoing production of research developed to provide insights that help companies make well-informed business decisions—perhaps to guide expansion, make a course correction or add new product lines.

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