February distributor shows really hit the mark; new tools boost shop efficiency

April 2, 2013
A review of the 2013 Matco Tools and Mac Tools mobile tool shows.

With technology changing so many aspects of the tool distribution business at such a rapid pace, distributor tool shows are more important than ever for tool truck owners. And based on the energy I saw the Matco Tools and Mac Tools events last month, the flags are doing their best to make these events useful for their distributors.

Hundreds of distributors took advantage of the shows and saw a lot of exciting new tools. They met flag product managers and manufacturer representatives during the trade shows. They attended education sessions on how the new tools work and how to market them. They heard from fellow distributors on what tools are hot. They shared notes on the best ways to sell tools and interact with customers.

These were energizing events. And while I haven’t taken a formal survey, I’ll bet that everyone who attended the shows felt the time and resources invested was well worth it.

One thing that struck me was the positive attitude shown by just about every distributor I spoke with. Many were quick to point out that despite a difficult economy, their businesses are growing, thanks to the many great new tools that manufacturers are introducing.

There were four major tool trends evident at both flag events. All of which have to do with improving repair shop efficiency.

Cordless power tools are hot and expanding. Customers love the ease of use of cordless tools. They want a cordless option for just about every job.

Diagnostic tools continue to evolve. The capabilities keep improving and shops are finding that more of these systems are giving them diagnostic capability in easier-to-use formats, such as wireless tablets.

Storage systems (toolboxes and carts) are becoming more versatile, allowing techs to store more tools. The growth of cordless and diagnostic tools has driven box and cart manufacturers to find ways to store these and other tools more economically. Manufacturers are listening to distributors and techs alike in designing storage concepts that allow techs to get more done while moving around less.

Trucks are being designed with more display space and greater ease of use. The price points, always high in comparison to other types of offerings, did not dampen traffic at vehicles designed with the distributor’s needs in mind.

But product and education weren’t the only draws at these events. Camaraderie has always been a big part of mobile tool business, and the shows have always provided owners a great venue to network and share best practices.

Some district managers organized their distributors’ activities, allowing attendees to make better use of their time. Jason Gardner, Mac Tools DM for Dayton, Ohio and Indianapolis, Ind., organized group booth visits for his distributors. Learning as a group on the show floor provided more value to these distributors, and the exhibitors made better use of their time as well by having a group to meet with in one setting.

Repair shops and techs understand that efficient tools make them more productive and more profitable. Distributors who understand how new tools boost shop efficiency have the greatest opportunity to strengthen both their sales and customer relationships.

The distributor tool show remains the most efficient way for distributors to learn more about new products. This is why flag organizations and tool manufacturers invest as much as they do in making these shows such great events for their distributor customers. For coverage of the February shows, go to www.vehicleservicepros.com/distributors.

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