Dec. 4, 2006 – U.S. distributors show multi-prong approach at Intermot

While many powersports companies at Intermot were seeking to expand their business in Germany and other countries in Europe, quite a few foreign firms said they hoped to set their sights on North America. For them, meetings with U.S.-based distributors became a key goal of the event.
“We’re here to expand our business in Europe, but the U.S. is our next target,” said Angus Wood of Metal Gear, an Australian firm specializing in sprockets. “As a result, we’re spending some time here trying to make contact with U.S. distributors.”
Tucker Rocky and Parts Unlimited were the only two U.S. distributors with booth space at Intermot. Both companies took a double-pronged approach to the event. In one instance, they appeared to look for foreign suppliers hoping to enter the United States. However, in a second, they spent time marketing their in-house brands.
Situated among Answer, Firstgear, MSR and ProTaper product, Tucker Rocky representatives were located in a corner booth adjacent to the Polaris display.
“Our goal is to find some unique products that we may want to distribute,” said Glen Urquhart, Tucker Rocky director of ATV. “We have a group of about a half-dozen people here that we split into teams – two are devoting time to the cruiser market, two are looking at sport bike products, and two are searching out any ATV products that may be of interest to us.”
Representatives from Parts Unlimited included Jeff Fox and Greg Blackwell, both of whom spent time meeting with U.S. and foreign vendors in Parts’ glass-encased booth. Parts’ parent company, LeMans Corp., also showed house brands, including huge Thor and Icon displays.
Still, perhaps the biggest news revolving around Parts Unlimited at Intermot was word that the company plans to open a distribution center in Europe. Fred Fox, addressing vendors at the distributor’s recent showcase in Madison, Wis., said the company is moving forward with plans to build a warehouse in Europe.
Fox, in a previous interview with Powersports Business, said Parts already does “a substantial volume” of business there. “The difference is we’re going toward a full-service warehouse,” he said.
LeMans has already picked out a site for the warehouse and is currently “doing testing on the soil to make sure it can support the building,” Fox said, declining to provide a location.
Powersports Business asked a number of U.S. suppliers whether they would be willing to hook up with a major U.S. distributor planning to enter Europe. Here’s how they responded:
“The distribution channel in the U.S. is much different than in Europe,” said Wiseco Director of Sales and Marketing Ralph Johnston. “But, White Brothers, when they were into distribution, did a lot over here for us. So if Parts or someone else from the U.S. comes over here, they can pick up our product and go. We welcome it.”
“We try to stay as loyal as possible to our existing distributor base, but it may be of interest to us as some sort of secondary outlet,” said Genuine Innovation’s Duncan Benning.
“We’re talking to them now,” said Charlie Gifford of Symtec, Inc. “It’s all a learning curve for us. Sure, we think there are other distributors here that we could work with, but at this point, since we don’t know who’ll eventually call on whom, we’re trying to figure out the best way to proceed.”
“We’ve got a long history here and some good distributors that we work with, but it’s a world market,” said Kevin Berger, president of SuperTrapp Industries, Inc. “The marketplace is different than it was in the past, so you have to evaluate the times today and see how that all fits in.”
“It would be nice if they would bring the European market more of that one-stop shop,” said All Balls’ Kevin Kraft. “It would make it easier for us to deal with everyone, and it would change the game. Still, I imagine they would have done their due diligence of this marketplace, what’s going to work, and do business the way each country prefers to do business.”
“Going with a U.S.-style distributor all depends on how they’re going to model it; the European market is so different,” said Paul Brent, vice president of marketing at Electrosport. “I guess it really all depends on your relationships with existing distributors. If you’ve built those up first, then you’d have to say ‘Thank you, but we have it covered for right now.’”
“I think Parts Unlimited may be in for a bit of a challenge when they come over here, as I’ve heard they intend to,” said Rick Marlin, president of Suomy USA and director of Fog City Anti-Fog Products. “The thing about the European community is, as interconnected as it now is, it’s also very provincial. Relationships are, I think, paramount.
“Our strategy has always been to have one distributor in each country that can service the local market with the local traditions. I believe, even though the borders are open and product is crossing borders, people still are looking for those intimate relationships. I don’t know if that’ll last for the next decade or so, but I do think it’ll take some time for those old behaviors to wear away.”

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