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Auto parts retailers have been spared from sharing the same fate as Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us and so many other companies rendered redundant by Amazon. About 80 percent of AutoZone's business comes from people repairing their own cars with the other 20 percent coming from professional mechanics. Amazon's gaining traction in stealing away some of the consumer market. Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images An employee, right, helps a customer change a license plate bulb outside an AutoZone store in Princeton, Illinois. Amazon has crushed many iconic American companies, but auto parts retailers like O'Reilly and AutoZone have managed to fend them off.
Stores that sell car batteries, mufflers and other parts are facing new pressure since Amazon started selling auto parts. Big retailers like Walmart have also jumped into the fray, in part, to compete against Amazon.
So far, auto parts retailers have been spared from sharing the same fate as Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us and so many other companies rendered redundant by Amazon.
For years, the $130 billion business selling aftermarket auto parts was one of the steadiest segments in retail, with mild cyclical fluctuations and slow trend of consolidation, MoffettNathanson analyst Greg Melich told CNBC. The segment even managed to make it through the recession reasonably well, as drivers repaired instead of upgrading their cars.
But pair of warm winters and a variety of other factors in 2016 and 2017 took a toll on the segment, just as Amazon and Walmart stepped up their efforts to grab market share. Now there is an oversupply of sellers in a market that has been experiencing slower demand, and may see slower growth in the next few years, Melich said.
"The battle of the titans between Walmart and Amazon is only just starting," Melich said. "The smart companies are doing what they should do, which is lean into the more service oriented part of the business on the commercial side."
Amazon pulls in about $6 billion in annual sales from "do-it-yourself" auto parts customers and is partnering with Sears to sell tires.
Walmart has also stepped up its game in the segment over the last three years, even at the expense of profit margins, Melich said.
In 2018, MoffettNathanson expects Amazon and Walmart to have a combined share of about 23 percent of the "do-it-yourself" market — with Amazon at about 8 percent and Walmart around 15 percent. Just 5 years ago, the two retailers had up to 17 percent of that market.
The more a retailer serves consumers, the tougher it will be for them to compete against Amazon.
About 80 percent of AutoZone's business comes from people repairing their own cars with the other 20 percent coming from professional mechanics. About 60 percent of O'Reilly's sales comes from the do-it-yourself consumer market with mechanics making up the rest.
The split is reversed at Advance Auto Parts with 40 percent of its revenue coming from consumers. Just 25 percent of the sales at Genuine Parts, which owns NAPA, comes from people popping their own hoods to fix that troublesome rattle.
"Amazon is obviously more of a risk to an AutoZone which does a majority of their business in DIY," Jordan said. He added that AutoZone is making a big push into serving commercial customers where there's more potential growth.
The increasing technical complexity of cars means it is ever more difficult for ordinary customers to service what they own.
That bodes well for sales of parts on the commercial side. More sophisticated parts cost more money. A halogen headlight for a 2005 Jeep Wrangler might cost $15, but a new headlamp on a luxury vehicle — the sort that can swivel to follow the shape of the road — might cost hundreds of dollars, Jordan said.
So far, Amazon has not been able to crack the code of the commercial auto parts business. Parts sellers need a mind-boggling degree of inventory — enough parts for the wide array of cars on the road, Jordan said.
It also does not yet have enough points of distribution around the country to replicate what auto parts stores do for commercial customers, and it might not be the best use of their resources right now to invest in that, Melich said.
Of course, he added, that could change in just a few years. Amazon didn't have a strong grocery distribution network, that is, until it bought Wholefoods Market.
Advance Auto Parts CEO Tom Greco on Tuesday said the company plans to bring in outside help to compete against e-commerce giant Amazon.
“So when you talk about Amazon particularly, we’ve had to recruit some people into the company who can really help us compete vigorously against formidable competitors like Amazon,” he told FOX Business’ Liz Claman on “Countdown to the Closing Bell.”
The company is trying to engineer a business turnaround by using its savings from the tax reform bill and is taking steps to step up its e-commerce program.
“We’re investing in e-commerce and our technology programs because we know that’s going to be important,” Greco said. “We certainly made big investments in customer service because the experience that our customers have both online and in the stores is critical and then in our people.”
According to Greco, one of the biggest focuses of the plan is to incentivize its employees.
“Overall, we have a plan that is going to invest significantly back in our employees,” he said. “We have front-line employees all over the country who are really important for us. We want the very best parts people in the business working for Advance.”
After President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%, companies began giving incentives to their workers including salary hikes to $1,000 bonuses.
As a part of the auto parts retailer’s turnaround strategy, the company introduced a stock ownership program that provides its top-performing employees with stock options.
“We actually introduced a stock ownership program for them for our top performers so that they can earn stock in the company,” he said. “We feel that is a really good retention move for us, and it has dropped our turnover significantly.”
The online market for after-market car parts, by some estimates expected to top $10 billion in the next few years, represents an interesting opportunity both for established retailers that could grab market share as consumers move online—and companies like Amazon, that will look to grab those same shoppers.
Investors have been sensitive to the threat Amazon presents for a while now. Early last year, when news broke that the company was targeting the market, sector stocks took a tumble. Is it useless to resist the oncoming behemoth?
Perhaps not. In a Friday report, Raymond James analysts reviewed some of the major players’ sites, comparing those of Advance Auto Parts, AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Amazon and privately-owned RockAuto. By their measures, Advance holds up best.
ILLUSTRATION: RAYMOND JAMES “Advance’s and O’Reilly’s websites offer a slightly more attractive alternative to Amazon’s,” the analysts wrote, “particularly for DIY customers that are either 1) looking for useful browsing features, 2) seeking information on parts, or 3) wanting to buy online and pick up in store.”
More generally, investors seem to like the business. Earlier this month, Credit Suisse predicted improved sales in 2018 and a boost from tax reform. And on Friday, JPMorgan called it “one of the best sectors in retail,” adding Advance to its “Focus List” with a $138 price target on the shares, about 12% above current levels.
So it seems that Amazon has switched most of their prime member orders to the USPS, probably to save costs. The issue is that the US Post Office does not make deliveries if you are on a private road, unless you have a mailman going outside the policy. I even spoke to the post master of the local office and he's getting complaints from residents who are not getting their packages and have to go pick up at the post office! The mailman is even dropping off a slip that says "Sorry we missed you" or "Delivery attempted" when in fact the package never leaves the post office and they just use that form. It's a joke and my taxes at work, can;t get any more packages from USPS and that includes the majority of them from Amazon.
With Amazon's main carrot being delivery and Prime within two days, that's going away for me and for others on private roads unless they switch back to UPS. There is no point if I have to go to the post office to pick it up, no convenience there. Amazon should have negotiated better with the USPS.