Are Bricks and Mortar going to Survive the Internet Era?
During the past fifty years, most of my work life in this Industry, one of the most significant
‘barriers to entry” in the equipment industry, and in fact, capital goods industries has been the ownership and control of proprietary information. For instance, where to buy a part. A specific part, a bearing, for example, was purchased from an authorized dealer typically because the consumer did not know of any other source. Repairs and Maintenance were the exclusive domain of the authorized dealer for a similar reason. There was no availability for the independent mechanic to service manuals and technical literature. There clearly has been a radical change here hasn’t there? Just ask Google or another search engine whatever you want and they will typically have an answer. Even Alexa or Siri or Bixby will give you an answer on your cellular telephone.
Let’s start with some facts. In the US the standard in the retail sales Industry used to be 10 square feet of store space for every person in the country. In 1998, after a substantial increase in the square foot assigned to retail sales, the retail sales per square foot had dropped from $200.00/ft2 to $150.00/ft2. In 1999 the International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management reported that consumers’ shopping time was down 31% and monthly mall visits were down 47% with stores visited per mall visit down 57%. Clearly something was going on here.
While this was going on Amazon came onto the scene. They started business on July 5, 1994. From that launch date the impact that Amazon has had on retail sales has been nothing short of amazing. In 2019 Amazon had a market share of e-commerce in the USA of 52.4%, Non-US was 5.7% for a worldwide market share of 13.7%. In that same year, 2019, e-retail sales accounted for 14.1 percent of all retail sales worldwide. This figure is expected to reach 22 percent in 2023.
I first used the internet in 1973 through a Service Bureau in Canada via a business called I.P. Sharp Associates. Ian had direct real time access, on line, to all financial data worldwide through the stock markets. He also provided international associations, such as the World Bank, direct access to financial information. He later sold his business to Reuters who kept the news piece and sold the financial piece to what is now provided by Bloomberg. At that time there was no AOL. The general public was not on line yet. That is only forty-five years ago.
Today many business systems offer online “portals” for the public to search through for a part or information on a repair or maintenance for equipment. Today there are a multitude of businesses from whom you can purchase just about any part you need from an alternate source to the authorized dealer. In automotive Genuine parts through their NAPA stores is a direct competitor to the authorized car dealers. In many cases, as Forbes once called it “at a price that will make you weep.” In maintenance and repairs we have seen Mr. Muffler and Midas Muffler forcing the dealers into providing their off brand technical services like Mr. Goodwrench. In the construction equipment world in North America surveys are conducted nearly every five years and that data tells us that maintenance has been completely moved away from the authorized dealers. In fact, labor market share, depending on market area ranges from 8% to 15% of the total labor available. Of course, there are outliers in both directions. The parts market share is not more than 40% any more when in the late seventies it was in the range of 80%.
In 1980 one of the first internet-based buying options was brought out to the market. That parts ordering portal never achieved a portion of the dealer parts business in excess of 10%. Notice the difference between the Amazon model and our model. Amazon started with books and sold their books at a lower price than the local book stores. Even Borders, a major book store retailer was a victim of Amazon. They are no longer in business. What did Amazon do that the authorized equipment parts suppliers didn’t do. They lowered the prices. Their logic was when the customer is the coproducer of the work, they deserve to get a better deal. No one has as yet tried that approach as an authorized dealer. The aftermarket suppliers have already lower prices at their disposal.
So, there is the dilemma. I hope you can see it coming. It is that light in the tunnel of the train roaring down the track. Are you going to sit back and let the internet-based businesses penetrate even more into your parts and labor business or are you going to do something about it?
The Time is Now. If not now, when?
For more great blogs, click here.
For information on our classes, click here.