Steve Johnson says Tucker Rocky Distributing is rebounding nicely from the computer problems that almost wrecked the company several years ago, and today it is gaining momentum in the chase for profits and market share in the tightly contested powersports distribution field.
In an interview with Powersports Business, Johnson, president and COO of the Ft. Worth, Texas, distributor, said he likes what he sees.
“This is the best year since I’ve been here,” says the former Pepsi logistic expert who joined TR in October 2000. “We’re stepping on the gas; it’s has been an outstanding year.” While Johnson won’t disclose financial details of the privately-held company, he did say that sales were up more than 10% over the same period last year and SKUs (product stockkeeping units) are up more than 15% over two years ago. Tucker has about 65,000 SKUs, he said.
Johnson ticked off several reasons for his growing confidence.
One difficulty with increasing dealer Internet participation, according Johnson, is Tucker’s strong inside sales staff. “A lot of dealers just find it much easier to pick up the phone and call their rep.”
Take helmets, for example, a product that clearly is part of the fashion category. That means Tucker has to be able
to respond quickly to changes in market conditions. This, in turn, means helping suppliers shrink lead times as much as possible.
Or, look at wheels. Tucker’s Biker’s Choice operation carries a new line of Weld Wheels with 1,500 SKUs. It isn’t practical for Tucker to stock all those items, so it’s arranged for Weld to ship directly to Tucker dealers. Tucker is doing this for other suppliers, as well, especially for large, bulky products that have low demand.
Things aren’t perfect, of course. Tucker has had to raise some prices this year, passing on a portion of the commodity cost increases incurred by its suppliers.
“We’ve had some increases, especially in steel-based products, but there hasn’t been any backlash. People are always looking for value,” says Johnson, “but at the end of the day, there’s no place to hide from increased commodity prices. We’ve tried to hold the line, but it also forces you to continue to look at alternatives; it forces us to redouble our efforts to find the best value out there.”
When looking at the overall powersports industry, Johnson sees the industry continuing to grow this year, as the U.S. economy continues to get stronger. “The industry will grow at a faster rate than the last couple of years,” says Johnson. “I see the economy getting stronger and dealers getting stronger.”
Johnson also sees continued consolidation of the North American dealer base. “The good, smart operations will get bigger,” says Johnson, “and the professional operators will continue to put pressure on the small dealers.” Johnson also says that the trend of outsider investors who are good businessmen becoming dealers will continue.
Training and education will be keys to dealer success, says Johnson: Training of employees and education of consumers. “The smart dealers will be the ones who train themselves first and then take the time to qualify their customers and show them what they should be looking for.” psb