Reseller newsmaker Q&A: Tim Sturdevant

Jan. 1, 2020
Tim Sturdevant is president of SAE Warehouse/Sturdevant's Auto Parts, Sioux Falls, SD.

Tim Sturdevant is president of SAE Warehouse/Sturdevant's Auto Parts, Sioux Falls, SD.

What are you looking for from manufacturers this year?

Being able to ship the product. We are synching up with our manufacturers, trying to get better communications, and the catalog data and our inventories adjusted for sales. It's amazing how our product mixes are always evolving and changing. For example we used to devote a lot of warehouse space to exhaust systems, but with the stainless steel exhaust systems, that need had dwindled, and now we devote large areas of our warehouse to parts we didn't even carry 10 years ago. So we're always doing inventory adjustment, working with our manufacturers, to do better product mix, make better use of our space, and look for niches in the market.

What's the biggest challenge you face today and how do you address it?

Updating catalog information, from the pictures and the specifications of the product to the applications that it fits. And having good access to good data so we can have the proper inventories. We have a large product mix here in the Dakotas, including many of our good farmer customers, and a lot of it is not covered by Activant.

So we need good product access, and we need to us that to sell inventory. Making sure that we have good information on the inventory that we have, so we can get it sold. And it's hard to keep up with, even with electronic cataloging. In fact, electronic cataloging can present a problem sometimes when it's updated, but we still have product on hand. So we still have it but it has disappeared out of the electronic catalog. Now Activant doesn't tell you what they're taking out, so sometimes parts disappear, from our perspective, out of the blue.

So it's a challenge not to lose sales when people come in online, search our e-catalog, and don't think we have a part. Our people are trained to find ways to know if we have a part, but someone just coming in online wouldn't see it and we might lose a sale. Hopefully they'll give us a call and we can save the sale. But so much of it is done online now, it's a challenge.

We are continually looking to strategically partner with folks so we can keep our information as updated as possible. We've done quite a bit ourselves online, creating our own databases and for searching and accessing products. That's the biggest challenge.

What are your strategies for cutting down on returns?

Again, product information is the key. When a tech is trying to diagnose a problem, and can't diagnose a problem or get the check codes, or figure out what the problem is, they order extra parts and it turns into a guessing situation. Out here we have a lot of miles to cover, and we have to make sure we get them the right parts. And sometimes the techs will order extra parts that they don't need, and a lot of it comes down to not getting access to the best diagnostic information, pictures of the parts, the specifications, etc.

That's where the right to repair would really help out and make a big difference in our industry.

You have to have good systems and good information. We always strive for perfect inventory control, but that's kind of an impossible dream.

Do your customers care about country of origin of parts?

We have preferred to deal with our domestic suppliers, or through our national buying group, the National Pronto Association, and it has kept us competitive without having to buy from low-cost countries. But there is a lot of market pressure, with the "flattening" of the world. We try to provide a very high quality product. We have not been very successful with the plain box product, we go more with the branded product, and we've got great long-term relationships with most of our manufacturers. We don't switch and flip lines very often. So the product that we are buying from our domestic manufacturers that is from China or wherever is good quality product. Not all of it, and we shy away from anything we suspect is not going to be good quality. But it is slowly filtering through, with the flattening of the world and the domestic manufacturers needing to be competitive in the market. It's fairly inevitable.

But that wave will even out, too. Even China will eventually hit the point of diminishing returns, and their resources and people and their environment, and it's going to lose a little bit of its advantage and luster. Wherever there are people around the world who need jobs, and the resources are available, there will be manufacturing.

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