Tucker Rocky picture brightens

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.

  • Tim Pritchard has been named vice president of sales, effective July 12. Pritchard has been with Tucker since September 2001, most recently as regional sales manager in California and Nevada. He replaces Scott Wall, who joined the America’s PowerSports dealer network this spring.
  • Expansion of its outside rep force. The company has added approximately 17 territories this year and now has about 120 outside reps. “That’s just step one,” says Johnson. We’re going to continue looking at customer service and territories and see how we can improve service to our customers. That might mean adding more reps.”
  • The increase in brands and products that Tucker carries. Seventy-five suppliers have been added this year, and the company now carries more than 1,000 lines, Johnson said. For the most part, this has been a net gain in suppliers. “We’re focusing on filling the holes throughout our product portfolio,” he says.
  • Construction of a new 120,000 sq. ft., warehouse near Scranton, PA, which will replace facilities in Albany, N.Y., and Jessup, Md. The leased facility sits on five acres and is expected to open in November. The modern facility will enable Tucker to provide customer service at higher fill rates, notes Johnson.
  • Improved dealer information through its TRDealernet, its Web-based ordering system that was introduced at Indianapolis last year. More than 25% of Tucker dealers are using the system, but Johnson would like to see that number climb to 35% by the end of the year. “We have to get more of our dealers into the 21st Century,” he says.
    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.”

  • Better supplier relations. Relations with many of its suppliers soured several years ago when Tucker was having computer problems. Database difficulties often translated into inventory errors and billing problems with suppliers. Now, Tucker is making a concerted effort to rebuild those relationships at the same time that it learns more about supplier’s operations, especially in terms of understanding production lead times.
    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.

  • Dealer Track Days. Tucker has done about 10 events this year where it invites dealers to local tracks on race day. Dealers get to meet racers,w and Tucker reps have an opportunity to explain the features and benefits of new products. “It’s been a home run for us,” says Johnson.
    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.”
    Industry trends
    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

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