Cash in on consumables

Oct. 5, 2016
Unlike typical tools, consumables have a shorter lifespan, and therefore, are reordered much more frequently.

While keeping up with emerging automotive technologies, distributors can become fixated on the newest tools required to make repairs on today’s vehicles.

Because distributors stand to make large commissions by selling a high-ticket tool or a large piece of equipment, it can be easy to lose sight of the lucrative follow-up sales from consumables – a broad product category that includes rivets, brushes, chemicals and even snacks.

“Great distributors bank on consumable sales for steady, reliable income,” Geoff Preston, VP of marketing at Dent Fix, explains. “Sure, you can sell them a spotweld drill or dent puller. But once that customer has their tool, they have little need for a duplicate piece of equipment until it breaks. However, the consumable demand for that tool never ends as long as it is operational. The more jobs the shop performs, the more consumables the shop will run through.”

Unlike typical tools, which can last for years, consumables have a shorter lifespan, and therefore, are reordered much more frequently.

“The inflow of cash is steadier because your customers will continue to buy a product every one month, two months, three months, etc.,” adds Jarrett Newman, who handles media relations and customer support at The Hand Stuff – a brand of balm for dry, chapped hands. “It’s revenue you can count on.”

Why carry consumables?

First and foremost, distributors that carry consumables provide an additional incentive for customers to climb aboard their truck.

“The distributors are stopping at their customers’ shops at all times of the day, including lunch hour. Sometimes that is the biggest motivator to come on the truck – because they have beef jerky or other snacks on their truck,” says Michelle Schramm of Medina Foods, makers of Goldrush Beef Jerky products.

Tim Taylor, sales director of automotive products at Deb Group, a manufacturer of chemicals and cleaning agents, notes that technicians and shop owners are likely purchasing consumable products from another vendor – possibly even a competitor. He adds that consumables can many times be an impulse buy, so a distributor may be walking past a selling opportunity.

Consumables are not always purchased on a whim. When it comes to body repair, a small consumable part may be the only thing holding up a job from being completed.

“A distributor can become a hero if they can provide the shop with a solution to their consumable shortage,” states Dent Fix’s Preston. “Another reason to carry these items is that they are often very affordable, and it is a great way to open a new relationship with a technician, show dedication to your tool line and support the shop operation.”

Meeting customer needs

Some customers might not be open to trying new products. So The Hand Stuff’s Newman stresses the importance of introducing technicians to consumable products on the truck.

“Customers don’t know what they like if they don’t know they like them,” he points out.

What items a tool dealer carries will depend on the individual stops they make. Medina Foods’ Schramm says the ultimate decision will come down to distributors and their knowledge of their customers.

“Some of the shops are more acclimated to their tool distributors carrying certain products and a number of different items on the truck than others,” Schramm says. “If there are a number of different customers requesting the same product, it would be wise for that distributor to bring the product in.”

“Consumables will vary with the type of prospect you are engaging,” Deb Group's Taylor adds. “For example, PBE (paint, body and equipment) customers will use specific consumables, such as tape, respirators, sandpaper, paint removing hand cleaner, etc. Automotive repair facilities deal more with hard parts, oil, filters, etc.”

Because of the constant shaping, refinishing and coating of repaired parts that body shops perform, Dent Fix’s Preston adds these shops may be looking for single-use, disposable items. If a distributor has stops like this, he or she should consider carrying:

  • Steel stud pins
  • Wiggle wire
  • Weld rods
  • Aluminum stud pins
  • Drill bits
  • PDR glue tabs
  • PDR glue
  • Plastic rivets
  • Bumper staple clips
  • Decal eraser wheels
  • Coarse wheel brushes
  • Fiber discs
  • Self-piercing rivets

“Most body shops work on steel and plastic, so stocking these consumable repair parts makes a lot of sense,” Preston explains. “There is even an emerging market and a huge opportunity for distributors to establish themselves as their body shop’s source for aluminum repair consumables like studs and self-piercing rivets.”

Once a distributor has narrowed down the type of consumable products their customers are looking for, he or she then must determine the amount of product to stock on the truck. This may require walking around a shop to see what work is being performed, surveying customers’ needs or enduring some trial-and-error to determine the demand.

“See what types of machines are in the shop, and what repairs they perform at the shop,” Preston suggests. “A better method of finding out what a shop buys is to simply ask. Most shops will tell you what they use the most.”

“Probing and qualifying the need of the customer base would help identify inventory levels and if it’s viable to stock inventory for a customer. In many cases, a distributor will purchase lower volume items through a warehouse distributor so that he/she is not tying up cash flow,” Deb Group's Taylor adds.

What’s more, a distributor may need additional training on selling techniques if these are outside of his or her comfort zone.


There are multiple strategies for displaying consumable products. Some distributors will place consumables at the back of the truck, forcing customers to walk along other product displays to access them.

“Customer[s] tends to look at all the items displayed on their way back and may find something else that catches their eye,” Schramm of Medina Foods explains.

A best practice is to have a board displaying an opened item, or to have a menu with pictures of available consumable items.

“Ideally customers should see the consumable board as they step onto the truck,” Dent Fix’s Preston advises. “Advertising a packaged deal on the board is a great way to move larger quantities of consumables – and consumables that group together well.”

Companies may offer specific displays also. The Hand Stuff, for example has a special gravity display to keep jars stacked neatly.


The need for consumable products exists in most shops, Newman of The Hand Stuff stresses.

“Ask for the business,” advises Deb Group's Taylor. “Many shop owners are consolidating suppliers and, from a selling perspective, you can add more to the orders that you are writing. You could also survey the employees to identify if the existing supplier is providing prompt service and quality products. They also could provide insight as to what their needs are beyond what the shop owner may disclose in conversation.”

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