Just Gimme the Facts

Last month’s Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) in Las Vegas was a big success! There was a ton of buzz at AAPEX, reacting to more learning opportunities than ever before, better food on the show floor and the introduction of the fancy enhancements that are being constructed at the Sands Convention Center.

The buyer count was down. What?! You expect the trade show folks to always say counts are up, and people think that they are always “making that up.” Well, not us. The facts are that the total AAIW buyer count was down 2.7 percent, but still exceeded 64,000. We expected that and were very pleased that it wasn’t down more. Exhibits and exhibitors were up — we didn’t expect that, but were delighted. 2012 is an Automechanika year when we historically dip a few thousand buyers, because many international and some domestic buyers do not budget to attend both shows on even-numbered years. Those are the facts.

Fortunately, some important buyer categories were up this year — like the warehouse distributor categories. But auto parts retailers were down 6.9 percent (still exceeding 5,100 buyers) and mechanical repair shops were down 2.6 percent (although taken together, still exceeding 6,300 buyers).

Such modest changes certainly don’t make our industry’s biggest week any less of a success. Let’s be realistic, folks: 2012 has not been as strong of a sales year for the aftermarket as 2011 was, so budgets got squeezed; there has been active merger and acquisition activity that automatically reduces some numbers; a mega-storm called Sandy closed East Coast airports at the worst possible time; and again, some folks went to Frankfurt a month earlier. AAPEX attendees I talked with told me that even with a slight dip, they saw the right people and that the show was a great business tool for them. They also think the show is moving in the right direction – offering more and more education, attracting brand new buyer categories, adding glitz, growing networking events and working hard to hold down costs. And those are the facts.

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