More than 340 dealers attended the Cornwell Quality Tools national rally March 4-6 at the brand new JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas. Dealers came from as far away as the Pacific Northwest and New England to take advantage of special tool pricing, training opportunities and comraderie. Many dealers brought their spouses and children to the event, blending in some vacation time with work.
"This year we had the largest percentage of the dealer force attending the rally in the company's history," said Bill Nobley, Cornwell's president. "The dealers who came are seeing steady business growth in their territories, and that's good news for all of us."
More than a hundred vendors exhibited at the rally, according to Marketing Vice President Bill Stemple. Dealers took advantage of the opportunity to meet vendors in person, to handle and inspect new products, and to make new connections.
Training Manager Mike Boyhan encouraged dealers to come to the rally with a plan in order to maximize their savings.
"The dealers who do the best come with a shopping list of tools they have already sold to their route customers," he said. "That helps them manage their time, make contact with everyone they absolutely need to see, and still leave plenty of time for socializing and catching up with other dealers."
The star of the rally was the new MM800 cart which will be rolled out throughout the year. Available in black, blue, and red, the cart features seven drawers with high-quality roller bearing slides, reinforced rolled edges, heavy-duty casters and Cornwell's TLC (total latch control) mechanism.
Ken Hickson, a dealer from Palm Desert, California, came to the rally with six of the carts pre-sold. "I had a lot of interest in the cart on the truck," he said. "You can see the quality built into it."
"This is a great addition to our MM series of carts," said Stemple. "It will appeal to a wide variety of technicians." The cart could serve as an introductory tool storage solution for a newer technician, or it could be a valuable accessory for more experienced techs who already have a substantial toolbox.
Friday, March 5, was entirely set aside for training. Four training seminars were offered throughout the day, capped by the popular Dealer Forum presentation, where the top dealers in the country take questions from the audience. The training topics included selling diagnostics and a newer module on electronic marketing.
"We're getting lots of interest from dealers who are using e-mail, instant messaging and texting to get information to their customers more quickly," said Cornwell's Digital Marketing Manager Don Russell. "Electronic marketing helps dealers keep their customers up to date, even when they aren't physically in front of them."
Mike Katcher, a Cornwell dealer in Reading, Pennsylvania, attended all four training sessions. Katcher has 30 years of automotive experience, but is new to Cornwell, having started a brand new territory in January.
"No matter how much experience you have in the industry, you always pick up something new," he said.
Katcher came to the rally with an detailed, four-page list of tools to buy for his customers, a sign of his rapid business growth. "I got to a hundred customers in the first three weeks and sold a wheel balancer the first week on the job," he said. Katcher credits the new-dealer training he received for helping him quickly establish his business.
The rally purchasing frenzy took place on Saturday, March 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cornwell closes the rally at lunch times and treats all the vendors to lunch, a move appreciated by many in attendance who welcome the chance to get off their feet.
Don Jensen of Pull-It Corporation in Beaverton, Oregon, had a variety of collision repair tools on hand, including clamps, accessories, measuring devices, nylon slings and other items.
"This is, at least in my mind, the best of the mobile tool shows," he said. "It's very concentrated. It gets done quick, and the dealers are really interested. They put together a really good show."
Ed Coleman of Ullman Devices Corp. echoed the sentiment.
"This is a first class event. You can tell it's a family-run company. They treat us really well," he said. Coleman was busy showing dealers a raft of products including a new penlight-pickup tool capable of picking up 5 lbs.
Dozens of dealers who achieved sales objectives were given watches and rings during an awards recognition luncheon on Friday. The rally was capped by a Saturday night recognition dinner where Cornwell thanked all its dealers for their business and support with awards for the top 30 volume dealers and the top 20 hardline dealers.