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Auto Parts and Distributors

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  • Auto Parts and Distributors

    Anyone familiar with the evolution there? Originally an Auto Parts Shop stocked a LOT of parts. I BELIEVE NAPA was an exception, founded in 1925 as a retailer's cooperative. Until the rise of UPS in the 70s even NAPA stores still had to carry inventory. Then came "I can get it from OUR warehouse", sometimes as a chain, sometimes as a Distributor.

    The trends also impacted Speed Shops. As UPS served more and more areas Speed Shops functioned as Branded Cooperatives like Super Shops, Speed Equipment World and Grand Automotive in the Midwest. There were more, I'm sure. Then Speed Distributors got a bit greedy selling to any old parts store. Crafty store managers realized if the "cool kids" with the fast cars hung around more people would buy ordinary parts there and started deep discounting the speed equipment. Speed "only" Shops couldn't draw in regular parts customers and perished.

    "Experts" am I even close on this?
    My hobby is needing a hobby.

  • #2
    More on the sad short story of Speed Equipment World. Franchisees kept going as independants into the 80s though. Insight on the legal-ese appreciated though. I get a headache reading that crap.

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    My hobby is needing a hobby.


    • #3
      And of course thast is all before the rise of Jeg's and Summit in the 80s.
      My hobby is needing a hobby.


      • #4
        A friend of mine & I started a speed shop from scratch in 1974. This was in a town of about 12,000 people. My experience with that was that inventory really depended upon the size of the town. Everything other than day to day stuff was special order. Prior to that I worked for a local mechanic that bought most of his parts from a local parts store a couple of blocks away. You were always thrilled if they had what you needed on hand. The more common things probably. But even those could be limited to the supply & demand of any given day. UPS was already in this town then. However, you either had an arrangement with whoever your long distance parts supplier was or it was C.O.D. I do not think that they even do C.O.D. these days. All credit cards now.

        On another note, my ex-wifes family had a very successful local parts store in Rockford, Illinois that they had started when the boys came back from WWII. They sold that to one of the bigger national chains in the earlier part of this century. I worked for one of the local O'Reilly's in 2009-10 when I had to wait until I hit 60 to get my guard retirement. There I learned that there is an almost game-like competition between these chains to be the biggest in number of stores, sales, etc. O'Reillys, Pep Boys, Auto Zone, etc. The wife made me quit that as soon as my retirement hit. Said that she was tired of me coming home in a bad mood.

        Credit card purchases, the internet, drop shipping, all played a big part in changes over the years. Not to mention the rise of FedEx & the Postal Service making an effort to compete with them & UPS. The latest trend that I am seeing is companies like Rock Auto. Where the majority of "to your door" stuff had been from the speed shops, now stock replacement part companies are stepping up & taking on the aforementioned brick & mortar national chains. It is interesting to watch & it seems to always benefit the consumer. Thanks god for a free market system.
        ...when you got a fast car, you think you've got everything.


        • #5
          Interesting.... When I was in Wholesale distribution in the 80s yes, Credit was a high yield money grub. We tried to grow our business OUT of the UPS phase into a "real" one. From shipping/receiving through to management I saw more of those red and white perforated COD tags for suspect accounts than I'd like to remember. Of course that was better than trying to carry our own interest free paper on our good pay accounts though.

          But Speed Shops. The Used Parts. The charm of that wall of pegboard with Mr. Gasket impulse buy items. The promo displays like shifters and gauges. The eye candy items the shrewd shop manager would order on spec and deck the place out with. Those were the days....
          My hobby is needing a hobby.