Husky Liners is more than a funny advertising shtick. Over the years, the brand arguably has been the greatest formidable opponent to aftermarket industry giant Weather Tech. Such longevity in a dominated market segment would be out of the question without a clear plan, roadmap to success, measurable milestones, and, of course, an incredible team standing behind a quality brand. Last week we lined up 2018 Planning Doesn’t Have to be a SNORE and this week we get ready to dive into the details with longtime industry professional Bennett Jackson of Husky Liners.
Updating an antiquated inventory system, making sure the shelves are stocked with desirable brands and products, understanding the importance merchandising a showroom properly, investing in one’s employees, tapping into the benefits of social media, and leveraging certain online tools to increase the customer experience are beneficial topics for any business. The Husky Liners brand is no stranger to keeping its eyes on the prize, and putting together one killer plan to get there.
Q: Help retailers see the benefits of partnering with an established distributor vs doing it all themselves.
JACKSON: Sometimes, a retailer will get “direct-itis” with a factory, but going direct with a factory is detrimental to all parties. With hundreds of factories and thousands of top-selling SKUs, a shop can’t keep it all in stock, meet the various freight programs, or turn inventory fast enough [for it to make sense]. Shop owners may think they are getting a better deal by buying direct, but the freight alone will destroy the margin and factories cannot justify selling a retailer at a low price. That’s what WDs are for—incredible inventory that is readily available with superior logistics, delivery, and support. This allows a business to run lean and not tie too many dollars up in inventory, order/receive multiple products or different brands on one truck, schedule installation (or other appointments) that meet customer needs, and run their operation efficiently.
Q: What is your advice regarding how to update an antiquated inventory process into something more efficient?
JACKSON: Work with Keystone, as they will have suggestions and products/services that can not only help maintain your inventory, but also help you understand your turns— what’s moving, margin, and volumes.
Q: There are so many merchandising displays to choose from, so which ones should automotive retailers bring in and what are some creative ways to arrange the inventory/ displays?
JACKSON: This is a great question. As it applies to Truck Hero offerings, shop owners should discuss their regional market with their factory sales representative: how do customers in the territory use their trucks, what type of customer base does the business target vs the kind of customers that actually come into the store, and what products provide appropriate solutions?
For example, like many other products, tonneaus can be regional—customers in certain areas of Texas may trend toward a certain style, while customers in Oregon may have different needs. At Truck Hero, our goal is to have products to meet all those needs and the corresponding merchandising display so that shop personnel just have to worry about effectively educating customers about the products [from N-FAB steps, bumpers, and lighting-mounting solutions or Bed Rug mats and liners to Husky Liners floor mats and mud guards]. Depending on the store’s layout, there are many ways to arrange merchandising displays—again, this is a great conversation for any shop owner to have with their Keystone team and/or Truck Hero sales representative.
In the case of stocking a complete family of brands like Truck Hero, on-hand inventory sells. It helps eliminate the customer’s ability to say, “I’ll come back.” Instead, staff can sell what they have in stock while the customer is there. But out of so many choices, what does a shop need to keep on hand? The jobber has to answer the question of what to stock and display based on market preferences— top sellers in a handful of categories. Truck Hero offers leading brands in multiple, popular truck accessory categories that are all backed by a company that is leading the truck accessory industry. These are the premier products that the shop wants to stock because having Truck Hero products on-hand shows the business is committed to a quality selection for its customers.
Q: Talk about the important role training plays in helping people stay connected and remain abreast of what’s going on throughout the industry?
JACKSON: Customers visit specialty shops for product knowledge, education, advice, and to see premium vehicle accessories that are typically not found at “big retail.” If the person behind the counter isn’t informed, knowledgeable, and versed in the products and services that they offer then the customer is going elsewhere and taking their money with them. Training is such an important aspect of the business. WDs and factories are happy to help here with shop visits, product training sessions, literature, demos, and display setups. Industry sales people are there to learn about the specialty shop, share current market information, and help troubleshoot. [They’ll be visiting other shops in the area, so owners should talk to their management and countermen staff about being receptive to training that helps their business remain competitive.] Attending SEMA and WD trade shows, reading industry publications/newsletters, and visiting the WD or factory websites are other great ways to stay informed. If you aren’t paying attention [to the trends], you can bet your competition is.
Join us for Part III, as Husky Liners breaks down the ins and outs of social media and what makes a specialty shop a specialty shop.