FT. WORTH, TEXAS – The past few years have marked a period of significant change at Tucker Rocky Distributing.
Steve Johnson, chief operating officer, says internal adjustments made at the company during the past two years resulted in an improved operation during 2003, despite outside influences like war in Iraq, bleak weather and a soft economy. Keen to continue business on the upswing, he says additional operational updates have already been placed to insure positive returns throughout 2004.
“The most significant thing was creating the right team, and so the first thing we did was really place focus on getting the right people in place,” Johnson told Powersports Business during a recent interview. “We added significantly to our rep team, since we’re continuously looking for opportunities to create new territories to better serve our customers; we added technology, more additions to the new dealer ordering system; and then we added more new product than ever before.”
One result of Tucker Rocky’s new focus became apparent at the company’s 2004 sales meeting, held here Jan. 23-25. More than 100 Tucker Rocky sales representatives obtained product information from a record.
Fill rates are another indicator of how a distributor does its business, and Johnson says Tucker Rocky’s are “at record levels, way into the 90s” at the company’s warehouse and distribution centers in Ft. Worth; Albany, N.Y.; Aurora, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; Visalia, Calif.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Jessup, Md. and Bollingbrook, Ill.
“Things were looking bleak for a while, but they seem to be doing some things right,” said one of Tucker Rocky’s long-time vendor partners who didn’t want to be identified. “I’m glad they got Steve on board, and Bob’s return seems to have really improved the operation.”
“Bob” refers to Bob Nickell, founder of Tucker Rocky who later sold the company to current owner LDI. Nickell returned to the company in August 2002 as a consultant.
Johnson said Nickell serves as a key member of the Tucker Rocky management team, “integral in discussions about where we want to take the company.”
“He has great vendor relationships, and has helped strengthen those relationships for our business,” Johnson said about Nickell. “He wants TR to be as good as it can be, and has proved to be wonderful support for the company.”
Another source of support: Andre Lacy of LDI. “Andre and the board at LDI do support us,” Johnson said. “When TR had issues, I think they were disappointed, but they never lost faith. When times got tough, they put more money in and allowed us to do what we needed to do. Andre’s support got the flywheel turning faster.”
“A big part of what ’04 is about is to be there for the dealers … to have them know that we want to be their partners in profit,” Johnson said in explaining Tucker Rocky’s plan for 2004. To achieve this, he said greater communication is needed between the distributor and the dealer.
“First,” Johnson said, “we’re not going to only work with the parts department, but we’re meeting with the folks in new unit sales and the folks in service to try to get them to place an emphasis on PG&A when speaking with customers about their machines.
“Second, we’re also doing a lot more grass-roots things – expanding the number of amateur riders that we’re supporting, adding more local and regional race series sponsorships and programs, and doing other local events with our dealers.”
Assisting on that front, Will Pattison, Tucker Rocky brand development manager, has been tapped to attend races, track days, open houses, “and just really support the salesmen,” Johnson said.
A third relationship-building initiative mentioned by Johnson involves work being done by Tucker Rocky’s two merchandising and retail environment specialists, Jennifer Robison and Christy Michaud.
Fulfilling an optional service provided by Tucker Rocky, Robison, based in Washington, and Michaud, working from Maryland, visit dealers nationwide, offering tips and tactics on all aspects of dealership design and display.
“We’re doing this to promote the dealer,” Robison said, “not necessarily to promote Tucker Rocky. We want the dealer to have all the appropriate tools in place to allow them to do their business in the best, most effective, way possible.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest already, and hopefully, in the future, many more dealerships will take advantage of this opportunity.”
“This is a very highly competitive, highly energized market and we just really lit the fire under some of the things we’re doing,” Bill Carter, vice president of strategic development, said while explaining Tucker Rocky’s 2004 plan for its MSR, Answer and Pro Taper brands.
Carter said Tucker Rocky focused on product design for 2004, “and what I would call energizing the brands with exciting and effective advertising, packaging and promotion.”
“But these aren’t changes that are just coming about for 2004,” he said. “They actually started about nine months ago with a significant reorganization with the way we do our business. It’s really paid off with our 2004 line, and it’s set the stage for 2005.”
(Read Tucker, page 64, for more news about the distributor’s Answer MSR and Pro Taper brands)
With double-digit growth, 2003 marked the best sales year Biker’s Choice ever had, says Walter Clark, vice president of Tucker Rocky’s Biker’s Choice. “Plus, our new catalog just came out with over 700 new part numbers, which makes it one of the biggest growth years we’ve ever had, and our fill rates are the best that we’ve had in the company’s history.”
Clark says Biker’s Choice entered the New Year with more than new product, however.
“We also have a new program that will have dealers receive free product for ordering at a certain level,” he said. “It’s very high margin product that we would like them to try, but that we’re going to give to them for free. Give them a chance to put it in the store and see how it goes, and hopefully order more.”
Clark stepped into the vice president position at Biker’s Choice in May 2003. At the time, he told Powersports Business he intended to travel the country, meeting dealers and sales reps.
What did he learn?
“I learned they were glad that we were back so strong,” he said. “They want to have good, viable distributors, and I think they were glad we were back doing so well.”