cover stories


Western Auto accelerates its conversion to parts-only format
parts america By year's end, the company will convert all its company stores to "Parts America"

BY JOHN D. BATTLE
Managing Editor

WESTERN AUTO SUPPLY will convert its stateside stores of its retail division to Parts America stores as part of its re-alignment of operation for the next three years.

Sears Automotive, the parent company for Western Auto. National Tire & Battery and Sears Auto Center stores, had 279 company-owned Western Auto stores that have traditionally had service bays for installation or repair services. As part of its realignment it has closed 69 company-owned Western Auto stores and will convert the remaining 210 stores to parts-only or Parts America stores. Bays in the company-owned Western Auto stores will either be leased out or used as storage space.
Sears also has 392 Parts America stores which use the parts-only format. A Sears' spokesperson said the company expects 95 percent of the sales to be retail, with the remainder commercial sales. The Parts America stores will not actively pursue commercial accounts.
This does not affect the 820 Western Auto Associate stores which are independently owned and operated. They will remain their own separate entity with only their distribution services altered.
The closing of the 69 stores will eliminate about 1,100 personnel, which Western Auto will assist in finding new jobs in the community. The 69 Western Auto Stores are located in 19 areas in the Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth and New Orleans markets. These growth plans include realigning its four distribution centers and outsourcing its transportation and returned merchandise operations.
"Our new Parts America stores are performing well, and we feel compelled to speed up our schedule and get all our stores converted by the end of the year," explains Donald S. Shaffer, chairman and CEO of Western Auto. "Unfor-tunately, our research indicates there are a number of stores whose market conditions prevent them from being successful parts stores."
The realignment of the four distribution centers will see three of them (Salina, KS; Gastonia, NC; and Delaware, OH) focus entirely on supporting the retail division. The fourth in Temple, TX, will become a hub for all wholesale division distribution operations.
As part of the growth plans, Western Auto plans to increase its retail division and open approximately 100 new Parts America Stores in 1997 and 150 stores in 1998. By the end of 1999, it hopes to have more than 1,000 Parts America Stores.
All customer work and warranties covered by Western Auto will be handled by the Sears Auto Center and the National Tire & Battery stores. (NTB).
This acceleration of growth plans follows on the heels of a recent announcement by the company to combine its tire stores of NTW and Tire America under the NTB nameplate.
By the end of 1997, Sears will have remodeled, opened or converted 818 stores.
Schneider National will start handling the fleet operations previously operated by Western Auto's private fleet. Also, GENCO, Inc. will handle Western Auto's merchandise return operations beginning this fall.
Western Auto, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears, Roebuck & Co., is headquartered in Kansas City, MO.


'96 vehicle aftermarket reaches $132.4 billion
THE COMBINED SALES of aftermarket products and purchased services reached $132.4 billion in current dollars at user price for 1996, according to a report produced by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc., a NJ-based research and consulting firm.

The aftermarket product sales totaled $97.8 billion and the purchased services reached $34.6 billion. The growth of the product volume was higher than the previous year. User price is the price paid by the ultimate consumer or user of products and services.
"Aftermarket product volume grew 3.2 percent at user level during 1996," notes James A. Lang, president of Lang. "This is significantly stronger than the minuscule 0.47 percent gain during 1995 but less than the 5.9 percent increase in 1994 aftermarket product sales."
Product volume includes all products used in the repair and maintenance and modifications of cars and trucks and other types of engines, boats, off-road equipment, machinery, industrial use and related consumption.
Purchased services covers all labor costs paid by end users but not the cost of work performed in-house by fleets and other operations in their repair facilities, or work done for no charge such as DIY vehicle repair.
"Over one-quarter of 1996 aftermarket volume was purchased service which increased from $33.1 billion to $34.6 billion over the previous 12 months," notes Lang. "Growth in user level volume of aftermarket products was boosted by the shift in product sales from the DIY market to service installation, an increasing portion of light truck aftermarket product volume by foreign vehicles, and an expanding share of aftermarket product sales represented by truck components."
Vehicle body parts, glass, communications equipment, sound accessories, audio equipment, fuel, tires, custom wheel and other miscellaneous accessories were not included in this analysis.
For more information on this report, contact Lang Marketing Resources at (201) 652-5220.


AAIW '97 is on a record-setting pace
NEW BUSINESS SECTORS have been added to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) trade show that are expected to boost this year's attendance over the 63,000 attendees from 117 countries recorded at last year's show.

The giant show, which expects to have more than 3,000 exhibitors filling 9,000 booths, is slated for Nov. 4-7 in Las Vegas.
AAIW is actually two shows running concurrently. The ASIA/ME-MA/APAA show, which is sponsored by the Automotive Service Industry Association, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Automotive Parts & Accessories Association, will be held at the Sands Expo Center. The SEMA/AI and NTDRA show, sponsored by the Specialty Equipment Market Asso-ciation, the Auto International Association and the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, will be held in the Las Vegas Convention Center.
By registering at either show, an attendee can visit the other show at no cost. Free shuttle buses run between the shows (about a mile apart) leaving every five minutes.
Some of the new business sectors for the show are:
  • The NTDRA pavilion is expected to attract about 10,000 tire dealers. It will feature complete lines of brand and private label tires for passenger cars, trucks and heavy-duty vehicles plus tools and equipment for installation.
  • A new section for heavy-duty truck parts and accessories market will be jointly sponsored by ASIA's Heavy Duty Distribution Association and MEMA's Heavy Duty Manufac-turers Association. It will deal with the market segment involved with the $26 billion medium and heavy-duty truck parts and servicing market.
  • Both shows will have new products sections which tout the latest auto parts and accessories. More than 2,500 new products are expected to be debuted.
  • More than 100 educational forums and seminars will be presented on Innovations day with most free to show attendees.

    Register early and save
    Attendees who register before Sept. 22 can save $20 per person. The early registration fee is $10 compared to the on-site fee of $30. Show goers can also save time by pre-registering.

    A free FAX line has been established to help showgoers register and find accommodations. An AAIW attendee can call 1 800-4-ShowFax (or 800-474-6932) then dial the AAIW access code (97125) and the caller's return FAX number. Relevant show information will be transmitted back to the caller's FAX machine.
    Information available from Show-Fax includes registration forms, hotel reservations with a map of the hotel locations and an updated schedule of events.

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