Cornwell Tools rally shows rebound in progress

At the 2009 Cornwell Quality Tools Co. distributor rally in Anaheim, Calif., vendors and distributors alike viewed the current economy critically while keeping a positive attitude toward the tool and equipment section of the automotive aftermarket.

With Disneyland right around the corner from the show floor at the Anaheim Marriott, plenty of distributors were able to make the rally a combination work-and-family getaway from the business to recharge on business matters with other distributors and relax with family at local attractions.

“Southern California was fun; we brought the three kids along to their first rally — they did well, we enjoyed it, and had some good family time at Disneyland,” said Cornwell Tools distributor Daryl Peterson.

On the show floor, more than 100 vendors were on hand to showcase the newest tools and equipment for distributors, who were able to take advantage of a comfortable atmosphere at the show.

Bill Nobley, Cornwell Tools president, said that part of the somewhat lower than average attendance was due to the location being so far west, making travel a bit more difficult for many dealers. For those dealers that attended, Nobley found their positive attitude overall was especially noteworthy.

“They all seemed to be very optimistic about what they see happening” in the economy, Nobley said. He added that Cornwell is set up to help dealers mitigate a down economy.

“I think Cornwell’s philosophy with their dealers has helped from the standpoint that we make sure they have enough territory that, with the closing of some of the bigger shops, [distributors] haven’t gotten hurt. They are basically able to expand their business as they need to.”

And the optimism Nobley saw at the show is playing out as “each dealers’ purchase average is continuing to climb,” he said.

Vendors at the show saw the optimism as well, and benefitted from it and the slightly lower attendance.

“It was a good show … there was a high interest in new tools,” said Steve White, president of Electronic Specialties Inc. “I noticed a few longer conversations about products like ours that are harder to understand; guys were trying to understand more of what they did to sell more of it.”

Increased tool knowledge is going to be key for distributors as the aftermarket continues to lead the economic recovery.

“From a tool standpoint, the downturn we saw in the economy is by us,” Nobley said. “The fact that people are beginning to repair their vehicles and equipment is really starting to show up in the sales of tools, from our perspective.”

White saw that distributors were looking more to gain an edge now as well.

“I noticed a more serious tone with most of the dealers. They’re looking a little harder for that new product that will be a big surprise and increase sales.”

Peterson, a dealer with Cornwell for six years, added that package deals at the rallies are a big draw for him.

“What I like to take advantage of at the show are the package deals that the vendors offer, such as the pry bars from Mayhew with the pry bar vault, and the Cornwell Super Sets are always a must for me. … For us, it’s where you can make a lot of money with margin on the hardline and it’s good to stock up on that,” Peterson said.

“To me, it’s about the combination deals — you buy X amount and you get so much off. … Our district up here in Minnesota is really focused on doing package deals for the customers, so we appreciate it when [manufacturers] do them for us, too.”

Peterson also likes the training sessions at the rallies; he especially liked the Q&A session with top five Cornwell dealer Del Postma and DM Mike Massey.

“It was just about ‘go out and keep focused on the basics’ … there’s no special magic trick that keeps a guy in business … it’s just a matter of ‘be diligent, be efficient and be persistent.’ Keep at it,” he said.

Nobley agreed that the session with Postma and Massey was a big hit with attendees.

“It was no secrets, just how he runs his business and what techniques he uses to collect his money and maximizing everything he does.”

Other training sessions included the always popular Dealer Forum, a sales techniques program with dynamic DM Mike Branan. Nobley said one other training session covered Cornwell’s new interactive website for dealers, “that gives them the ability to communicate much better internally and externally.”

Training and new tools aside, Nobley said the best take-away from each show is dealer communication. “The interaction between the dealers is what’s really meaningful from the standpoint that they just transfer so much information back and forth.

“It was one of the most positive shows we’ve had — especially in relationship to the way the economy has been,” he said.

Next year’s Cornwell Tools rally is scheduled for San Antonio, Texas.