An Industry Week primer

Jan. 1, 2020
If you're reading this article, you're most probably in Las Vegas preparing for Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) and gearing up for days filled with receptions, booth visits and workshops. As the industry's biggest event of the year, this

(Oct. 27, 2007) If you're reading this article, you're probably in Las Vegas preparing for Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) and gearing up for days filled with receptions, booth visits and workshops. As the industry's biggest event of the year, this massive professional and social gathering for the automotive aftermarket allows business leaders to step back and take a look at the "big picture," while jobbers and retailers can make new connections and get a first look at new products coming down the pipeline.

"AAPEX and AAIW are known throughout the global aftermarket as the events where business is done," says Steve Handschuh, president and chief operating officer of theAutomotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA). "Distributors and retailers make the buying decisions and set the strategies needed for their businesses in the coming year. Shop owners and jobbers can view the latest products and services, and bring their influence to bear on the aftermarket by affecting the buying decisions of the distributors and the promotion plans for new and existing products by the parts manufacturers."

Taking the stage for a week this busy is not without its downside, as most veteran show-goers can attest. Whether it's scheduling conflicts, missed appointments or sore feet, Industry Week can wreak havoc on attendees who do not plan ahead. So we've put together tips and tricks from long-time participants who are willing to share their secrets to making Industry Week a success, as well as some thoughts on what exactly the week is all about.

Members pay dues, reap international dividends
Handschuh explains AASA's main role during Industry Week as that of a service provider.

"We work to assist our members by providing services and programs that will enhance the success of their AAPEX experience," he says. "We also work with AAIA (the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association) to promote AAPEX and AAIW to the global aftermarket industry. Representatives from each association then work with W.T. Glasgow, Inc. (the show management company) to plan AAPEX. We strive to improve the event each year and to add new programs and services for the attendees."

One service AASA is providing to its members is the AASA Member Center, located in Rooms 104-106 of the Sands Expo Center. The center opens today, and will remain open through Nov. 1. It is equipped with free computer stations, private meeting rooms with seating for 25 people, a recreation area with a big screen TV, coffee and Danish pastries in the mornings and snacks and beverages in the afternoons.

AASA is sponsoring several events for AAPEX attendees, including the AASA Executive Breakfast tomorrow, Oct. 30 in the Lido Ballroom of The Venetian. Tim Wise, co-president and COO of O'Reilly Automotive, Inc., will be the featured speaker at the event, which will focus on "Leadership in the Global Aftermarket." AASA's international division, the Overseas Automotive Council (OAC), will host the annual International Reception on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at Treasure Island. This event offers attendees the chance to make new contacts and meet new clients within the global aftermarket.

"The international buyers play an important role in the global aftermarket and have expanded the market for North American manufacturers into new and emerging economies," says Handschuh.

According to Handschuh, much of AAPEX's success in representing the global aftermarket stems from its certification as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce International Buyer Program. The conference's Center for International Commerce (CIC) is designed to make international attendees' visits to AAPEX productive and profitable through computerized product and exporter locator services, interpreters and private meeting spaces, as well as credit card, telephone and fax services.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce and association trade specialists also will be available for consultation during the conference.

"AAPEX offers the most bang for the automotive distributors' and suppliers' buck, with all the business contacts in one place at one time, plus seminars and educational programs to sharpen professional skills," Handschuh adds.

One such seminar, "AASA and NHTSA: Ensuring the Quality and Safety of Imported Aftermarket Products," will address the safety and quality of globally sourced aftermarket products. The seminar will take place this afternoon, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in Room 202 of the Sands Expo Center. Moderated by Handschuh, the seminar also will feature Dan Smith, associate administrator for enforcement for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who will address the risks and potential hidden costs associated with global sourcing. All manufacturers, distributors and retailers are invited to attend the seminar.

More tips and tricks for attendees
Peter MacGillivray, vice president of marketing and communications for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), has attended AAIW more times than he can remember. As an industry insider, MacGillivray has a list of tips and tricks to help conference attendees survive Industry Week.

First of all, MacGillivray cautions attendees to set up all of their meetings before they even leave for the show. "If you don't plan ahead, you're not going to be able to connect with the people you want to see," he says. "This strategy will enhance your chance of success."

MacGillivray also advises attendees to consider using the monorail system to get from their hotel to the show, once they are in town. It's more convenient than taxis, MacGillivray says, and you can purchase your monorail tickets online from the comfort of your home before you even leave for the show.

Last, but not least, MacGillivray suggests buying an inexpensive, rolling backpack to carry all of the materials and brochures you will receive from exhibitors during the show. If you weren't able to buy one before you left for Vegas, the SEMA Show is selling them. But don't worry — you won't have to take the backpack with you on your return trip. Simply use the convention center's "business center" to mail product releases and other show material home, rather than trying to transport it in your suitcases or carry-on bags.

"You can get the entire spectrum of the aftermarket industry by attending the different shows," says MacGillivray. "Virtually every single element of the industry is in Las Vegas during this week, with tremendous educational resources and thousands of products on display. It's the one week of the year where the principals of every company come together. If you're here to make connections, you won't have to go too far."

And don't forget, MacGillivray adds, SEMA members can use the "member lounges" that are scattered throughout the convention center to grab a quick meal, relax or catch up on the daily news. All attendees, however, can take advantage of the free wireless Internet access that is available at the show.

Booth etiquette for show exhibitors
If you're here at Industry week as an exhibitor, and not a client, there are some things you and your employees should know about running the company booth. And while many of these suggestions may seem like common sense, a little booth etiquette will go a long way toward cultivating new clients and attracting new business to your company.

Barry Harris, marketing manager for The Timken Corporation, says the company produces a booklet for all attendees who will be manning Timken's booth at AAPEX. The idea behind the booklet, Harris adds, is to clearly explain how Timken associates can set a professional standard at the show and cultivate as many new prospects as possible.

If you control the attendees' impression of your booth, you'll be guaranteed to cultivate new business, Harris says. Always remember to take a genuine interest in the customer — don't be an order taker, card taker, peddler or manipulator. Instead, be a product expert and a problem-solver. Cultivate the "solution seeker" clients; they may represent the smallest percentage of attendees at the show, but they are the source of true opportunities and represent new business for manufacturers.

"Surviving AAPEX isn't easy, and I've got the war wounds to prove it," says Harris, who has attended the show for the past eight years. "But if you plan, plan and plan again, and don't take the details for granted, you won't be disappointed by the results."

So, plan, plan and plan again. Don't leave anything to chance, no matter how lucky the city makes you feel. Success is in the planning, not the luck of the draw.

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