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Posted: October 18, 2016

Business Building For The Ages

Pros Weigh In On Growth Opportunities At SEMA Show 2016…

By Stefanie Zalutko for Keystone Automotive Operations

Where else can you spend four days wowed by outrageous custom vehicles and celebrity appearances, as well as rub shoulders with more than 2,400 exhibiting manufacturers and 60,000-plus domestic and international buyers? The SEMA Show, of course!

As the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world, SEMA provides retailers and restylers with the convenience of having many industry influencers under one roof and the freedom to explore those brands without an obligation to purchase on site.

Aftermarket manufacturers and OEMs are eager to woo attendees with vehicles and products that showcase excellence in engineering, fabrication, and design, and they spare no expense unveiling the next generation of innovative concepts. In fact, more than 2,500 newly introduced parts, tools and components will be on display in the New Products Showcase this year. These benefits lie at the feet of attendees as means to bolster sales, profit, diversification and relationship-building opportunities throughout the year.

So it goes without saying that a retailer or restyler’s attendance offers many benefits that far exceed a few days on the Show floor. Ron DiVincenzo, general manager of Cap World in Melrose, Mass., urges people to attend the SEMA Show with a sense of purpose. “Be ready to engage. Otherwise, you will wander the Show floor aimlessly in awe of everything you see. Vegas is a fun town, but don’t forget why you are there. Use this as a time to network with your peers, and be a sponge, soaking up everything you possibly can,” he said.

Keystone Automotive Operations -- the leading and largest wholesale distributor of specialty aftermarket parts and equipment in North America -- is a proud SEMA member and Show exhibitor for more than 20 years. To provide retailers and restylers with some veteran guidance and words of wisdom while attending the SEMA Show, Keystone teamed up with a few seasoned industry professionals. Here’s what they had to say.

Speaking From Experience

Kathryn Reinhardt, MagnaFlow marketing manager and 2015 SEMA Person of the Year

The New Products Showcase is a great place to start. This is where all the manufacturers dream of winning the best new product of the year and hope to impress buyers with the next best thing.

- Attend the manufacturers’ press conferences, which are no longer just for press. Get the inside scoop, witness car unveilings and hear about new products and new partnerships.

- Consider going to the LTAA media day on Monday, Oct. 31, (open to registered media only) to see some of the top manufacturers’ products before the show even begins. It’s an ideal time to have those one-on-one talks that    sometimes can’t happen on the Show floor.

- Attend after-hours events! Tuesday, Nov. 1 is the YEN reception, Wednesday is the LTAA reception and Thursday is the SEMA Banquet. All are sponsored by SEMA with drinks and food, and all are prime places to meet rising stars in the industry.

Ryan Herman, executive VP, Extang, Truxedo, Advantage Truck Accessories, Retrax and BAK

Each retailer and restyler should take stock in his or her business and be perceptive of new opportunities to grow. What areas are doing well? What areas could use help? Are there any new trends to consider?

- Once pen is to paper and there is a set plan for attending, then make sure to review the itinerary carefully. Really consider the companies that are most important to visit and be sure to allow enough time to talk to the <I>right<P> people.

- Pack a snack when taking time to visit the New Products Showcase -- there are an awful lot of great products to see!

- Consider bringing an empty suitcase to hold all of the materials gathered during the Show, or bring some pre-printed FedEx or UPS forms and envelopes to ship the materials home/to the store each evening.

- Bring plenty of business cards and be sure to collect just as many from those you meet along the way!

Maximizing Your Show Experience

George Lathouris, director of U.S. sales, Keystone Automotive Operations

Get on the SEMA Show website and make sure to identify who is an absolute must, to connect with and where the companies are located. Then schedule appointments accordingly by hall to ensure face-to-face time with those most important to your business. This approach avoids wasting precious time walking back and forth between North, South and Central Halls.

- Spend time at the OE manufacturers’ booths to see what platforms they are focusing on and how that affects the aftermarket and a shop’s future business.

- Swipe the SEMA Show (buyer) card to have manufacturers send catalogs after the Show -- carrying all those books can slow anyone down.

Kevin Krieg, owner, S&K Speed Racing Equipment, Lindenhurst, NY

Think about the business goals for attending the Show and stick to the priorities.

- Consider taking a few people, so everyone can spread out and cover as much ground as possible individually. Assign specific tasks to everyone attending within the group and don’t stay at one place too long.

- Plan to be at the Show from day one through the very end -- from the time the doors open until closing in order to maximize the exposure.

- Avoid the Vegas temptation of late nights and drinking at the casinos. Everyone is here to do business -- be ready to strike early, meet up with current vendors to put names with faces, and be open to new things, new lines and new people (to help grow your business).

Charlie Card, owner, Vehicle Accessories Inc., Flint, Mich.

Map out all appointments via the SEMA Show floor plan or the app to maximize time spent on the floor and minimize the time spent walking -- wear good walking shoes!

- Go to the receptions that match up to your business (LTAA, PRO, WTC, etc.). Get involved and meet people who know the industry.

- Don't discount the importance of training classes and seminars.

- Failing to consider crossover products will cost any shop additional business. Being open to diversification doesn’t mean changing one’s core competency -- just complement it!


Additional Facts 

According to SEMA:

80% of attendees are primarily interested in seeing new products.

78% of attendees want to ignite ideas.

72% of attendees are set on keeping up with trends.

60 percent and 65 percent of attendees respectively want to connect with existing customers or seek new vendor partnerships.


What Keystone Is Up To At SEMA

Visit the Keystone team and its affiliate booths for a chance to win a prize!

Keystone: Central Hall, Booth 21249

FX Products: South Hall, Booth 34091

FX Vehicle: Outside South Hall,  Space 542

Coast to Coast: South Hall,  Booth 33091 

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