Resellers newsmaker Q&A: Scott Bennett

Jan. 1, 2020
Scott Bennett is the Director of Operations with Bennett Auto Supply.
Scott Bennett is the Director of Operations withBennett Auto Supply.

What do you think is the best way to attract young people to the aftermarket?

There is a lot of money to be made in the aftermarket. I don't think people realize how much opportunity there is to grow in this business. I'm not sure there is a best way, but there needs to be more effort and better recognition of the industry's strengths to help attract young people, as there aren't many in the industry. At Northwood there is a great program to get involved in the aftermarket. I'm third generation, and I was brought into this through my family. When I first started working, there were a lot of other young people in the store, but today we hardly have any in their early 20s. A lot of it seems to be the generation. Today's generation doesn't seem to want to work as many hours, and our industry requires a lot of hours and time.

What effect has the economy had on your business?

It is pretty bad. It's been bad for 24 months, maybe even 30 months down here. It has affected us in a way where we are seeing some repair shops close. Some national businesses are closing their doors. I head our service center program, and we have 50 facilities. They are not getting a lot of routine maintenance jobs whatsoever. One of the installers said he pulled out a customer's air filter and banged it on the ground to show him how dirty it was and asked if he would like it replaced. The man banged it on the ground five more times and said, "It's cleaner now. Put it back in." People are watching every penny. It is a tough economy, Hopefully we will have some relief soon.

How does your company remain competitive as technology continues to advance?

There are two types of Internet sales. There are sales where the person ordering the part is looking for convenience and time savings of getting the part. But then there are people that are looking to buy something on the Internet for $25 that they know is $40 in the store. There are companies that do these types of online sales, but then you have to add in shipping charges. So at the end of the days, those types of customers might save a little. Both aspects of this are going to continue to grow, and we do both today. But the one thing everyone needs to remember is you still have to have a relationship with your customer and if you allow the mouse and the click to be your relationship, it will weaken your business.

What is the biggest technology challenge you face?

Cataloging is the biggest challenge. Even with the best cataloging that is available, it is only 85 percent accurate. There will be applications that are missing. In the old days, everything was in the book. Now you can miss an application in the catalog and when you have so many counterpeople that aren't trained as well as they should be, they will tell a customer no without first checking with manager. And you can't do that. In today's economy we fight and claw for every sale.

We have partnered with G Commerce to improve our electronic data interchange to become more efficient and reduce manpower. The benefits of this process will be enormous for both the WD and the manufacturer in the near future.

Are your customers focused more on brand name quality and value or the bottom line and price?

I've been doing this for 25 years and it is a cycle. It revolves. What is hip today won't be hip in five years. Today with the economy we are in and with the older technicians starting to depart the industry, the younger technicians are more focused on the bottom line so the don't necessarily care if they are getting a Moog tie-rod or a private label. They are looking to make money and as long as the product fits, forms and functions, it is fine. I think in the next five years brands will become a focus again with what is going on in China and so many Western products making their way into our pipeline.

How is continued business consolidation impacting the aftermarket's manufacturing segment?

There are as many parts stores today as 20 years ago. They are the same, but different people own them. Eventually there is not going to be anyone left to consolidate with. I don't know that it is good for the aftermarket. As consolidation continues, a lot of major brands that have avoided selling to retailers are tempted to sell.

You've got people that are running these big corporations and not dealing with people. They are dealing with numbers and losing some of that relationship with customers and it becomes all about price. I know my customers. I know their names and we compete with a lot of the national retailers, and some of our customers buy from them. But they don't know the owners, they don't have a relationship with them. They are just buying based on a price. If you keep your pencil sharpened, you can compete and win.

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