Posted: February 14, 2015
Outfitting The Modern Work Truck
Retailers Give Firsthand Insight Into Best-Selling Work-Truck AccessoriesBy Dan Sanchez
With two years of great full-size truck sales, many fleets have traded in their older vehicles and upgraded for the work environment. This means they’ve had to rely on truck-accessory specialists to guide them in purchasing the right accessories for their new vehicles to optimize storage space, handle heavy cargo, provide security, and allow for easy access to tools and supplies. With this in mind, retailers have had a few successful years selling to contractors and working with fleets. And because they are at the front lines of sales, installation and customer feedback, they’ve been able to identify the best-selling products and product categories that they depend on to maintain their work-truck and fleet business.
While average truck owners may want to accessorize their vehicles for a variety of reasons, work-truck and fleet vehicles are always in need of essential items. Although it ultimately depends on the individual owner or fleet manager, many retailers have identified certain products they feel are must-haves to sell to this market. With stores in Olathe, Kansas, plus Independence and Kansas City, Chux Trux Owner Seth Gortenburg knows this only too well. “Our number-one work-truck item for both retail, work trucks, and fleets continues to be the toolbox,” said Gortenburg. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a crossover box, underbody or topsider, toolboxes are our number-one most popular item to sell to these customers.”
At the other end of the country in the Northwest, Portland, Oregon-based All American Truck & Cap SUV Centers maintains six stores located throughout the state. According to Casey Miser, who handles sales and marketing, the stores’ focus is on a different set of must-have products. “The number-one product we sell to our work-truck and fleet customers is a tie between spray-in bedliners and cargo-management products,” said Miser. “We sell lots of BedSlide products that have become our number-one cargo-management product. But we also install a lot of Arma Coatings urethane bedliners, as our work truck customers want to protect the bed of their vehicles from constant abuse.”
As one of the largest cap and tonneau retailers in the industry, Cap World has more than one must-have products that are staple items in the company’s 12 store locations in Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland and New Hampshire.“It’s funny that contractors and fleet people want name-brand, quality products,” said Ron DiVincenzo, general manager. “So our best sellers to these customers are A.R.E. and LEER, two incredible name brands for caps and tonneau covers. For fleets with vans, our best sellers are Weather Guard and Adrian Steel tool and cargo-equipment products.”
Accessible Tonneau Covers And Caps
While top-selling products vary from retailer to retailer, they all agree that tonneau covers and caps specifically designed for work trucks are also an essential part of their business. They claim that fleet customers want tonneaus and caps that provide easy access to cargo from the top and sides, as well as security for tools and equipment. Over the years, many top retailers have come to establish great relationships with many tonneau and cap manufacturers, and find they provide the support and product they need to service work-truck customers. “We have been an A.R.E. dealer for many years,” said Chux Trux’s Gortenburg. “Their deluxe commercial units are top quality, which is what work trucks need. Our guests who have had one in the past always go back to them, because they last. The doors open and close well, they don’t leak and can be configured in just about any variation needed."
While stores like Cap World carry nearly every brand of cap and tonneau cover, DiVincenzo pointed out some brands that stand out among their work-truck sales. “We carry both A.R.E. and Leer. These manufacturers are an incredible fit, because they want the fleet contractor business as much as we do,” he said. “Both these brands have entire lines of product dedicated to the work-truck applications, and those products can be customized for the individual needs of the end user.”
Likewise, All American has tonneau and cap brands that have done well with their work-truck customers. “Most of our work-truck folks steer away from folding or retracting items. So sticking with brands like LEER and SnugTop allows us to offer products that are versatile,” noted Miser. “Not only do these products offer custom features to cater to our wide range of commercial clients, but we like the prompt delivery and great usability of the products. Not to mention, they also have a sleek fit and finish that our particular customers like. Snug Top has its SnugPro line that has endless features, and LEER has its DCC brand. So, with these products, we are easily able to satisfy our commercial clients with a vast product line.”
Protection From The Elements
Another factor in determining which work-truck accessories can do well also depends on geographical areas. Many top retailers must factor in constant weather and road conditions that their customers face. So by offering products that help their customers’ vehicles last longer, and work through a variety of constant weather conditions, helps bottom-line sales. “Like any vehicle, work trucks and fleets need basic protection items, such as mud flaps, floor liners and seat covers,” said Gortenburg. “In our area, floor liners are strong sellers, because of the wet climate, and WeatherTech is our brand of choice.”In the Northwest, where lumber is big and snow is also a factor, rust and cargo protection is key. “Spray-in bed liners, seat covers, canopies, aluminum lumber racks, and tool boxes that won’t rust are important to our customers,” said Miser. “Our customers also want to keep their trucks looking good, so they opt for protective items that keep them that way.”
The same holds true for East Coast retailers such as Cap World. “In New England, there is a lot of corrosion, so aluminum products tend to last longer,” said DiVincenzo. “We like products like TracRac and System One. Both make fantastic truck and van racks. Aluminum tool boxes from Weather Guard and United Welding are also good sellers for us.
New Products Commercial Customers Crave
While you can’t go wrong selling bedliners, caps, tonneaus and tool boxes to work-truck customers, retailers who listen to their customers’ needs can find solutions that can lead to some unexpected profits. “Two common problems that are often brought to us are the need for laptop mounts and load assists,” noted Gortenburg. “Most fleets, and even guys with one work truck, are now using laptops in their vehicles and need a way to mount them. On the load-assist side, guys have added significant weight, such as a plow or utility bed, which requires some sort of assistance.”
Sometimes, finding solutions for simple things like keeping out the elements can provide a great profit center. “Security and weather proofing, or something to keep out rain, are some of the needs many of our customers face,” added Miser. In other instances, improved visibility and company branding are important. “Most fleet customers require auxiliary lighting, whether it be a beacon light, Go Light or strobes,” said Gortenburg. “Vinyl wraps are also a good fit when selling to commercial customers. Many times the profit is in the labor since the parts can be very competitive.”
The pros also ultimately realize their customers simply want to make the most effective use of their trucks. “They need to use their vehicles to make money,” said DiVincenzo. “And we can help them make more while at the same time, make their lives easier by equipping their vehicles in a way that allows them to work smarter.”
Recognized Brands Are Important
Another aspect to building good relationships with work-truck owners and fleets is being able to offer high-quality, recognizable brands. “We offer spray-on urethane bedliners, such as Reflex and Rhino, at many of our locations,” said DiVincenzo. “United Welding. Weather Guard and Better Built toolboxes also do well. In racks, we offer brands such as TracRac, System One, Vanguard and Kargo Master. All of these products have great recognition in our industry.”
Chux Trux’s Gortenburg commented that his company sells all major brands, but when it comes to cargo management, “Bedslide and Truck Vault do well with our work-truck customers,” he said. Likewise, Miser from All American carries most major brands. “LEER, SnugTop, Kargo Master, Prime Design, Master Rack, Weather Guard, ProTech, Bedslide, Truck Vault, Race Sport lighting, and others are all brands that work-truck customers ask for,” he said.
Work-Truck And Fleet Market Expanding
With truck sales continuing to surge, manufacturers and retailers are poised for expansion. “Our fleet business continues to increase, and we have a dedicated staff to serve this segment,” said Gortenburg. “We believe the market will continue to grow, especially on the van side with all of the new-vehicle introductions. We are currently adding capacity to address that.” Retailers are also smart to have a larger presence in this area of the market, which can lead to more customers. “The wholesale fleet and contractor business has been a big growth area for us,” said DiVincenzo. “We continue to push for fleet and contractor business with a dedicated sales force and community presence at local events and dealerships.”
Direct mail marketing is another good way to grow commercial business. “We are in constant contact with our fleets and municipalities via email,” noted Miser. “We make appointments with many of them to show new products and what’s available. They are generally more loyal than a car dealer, but it’s still necessary to keep yourself in front of them.”
Retailers looking to expand their business into the work-truck and fleet market, can learn from what others are doing to be successful. Aside from stocking quality brands and solving customer needs, the retailers we spoke with all pointed to the fact that some kind of marketing effort is required to get and maintain that business. These retailers have been, and continue to be, successful in the commercial market, because they seek out companies and fleets that need the products and services they offer. Combine that with great customer service and high-quality products, any retailer or restyler can take advantage of this segment of the market, which doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.