Every year tire dealers must decide whether to spend the money and take the time to attend the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, part of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) trade shows in Las Vegas.
Sure, there are lots of reasons not to go. Gas prices are too high, airplane fares too costly, room prices too expensive, it's too crowded, it's not a tire dealer-only show anymore, it's in November, one of the busiest times of the year when customers are preparing their cars for winter. We're sure you can add to that list.
But the salient question really is not whether you can afford to go, but whether you can afford not to.
The fact is, the retail tire business is getting tougher-not easier-and the competitive pressures are as intense as ever, if not more so.
At the same time, the products tire dealers sell-and they're not just tires-are moving up exponentially in price, with tire makers seemingly announcing tire price increases every few months to offset rising fuel, raw material and transportation costs.
On top of this, the business of replacing and servicing tires is becoming more complex-issues like having to deal with run-flat tires and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), which now are mandatory on most new cars and light trucks.
These require special knowledge to service properly so they don't end up costing the dealership money and/or a customer.
The upshot is that dealers need help in addressing these and other issues. Attending the all-encompassing SEMA Show is one way of addressing those needs.
At SEMA, dealers will find cutting-edge technology, see the latest tires, wheels, equipment and products plus have a chance to talk with tire company executives, network with each other and attend worthwhile seminars.
The Tire Industry Association, which is part of the SEMA extravaganza, has some outstanding seminars planned.
Dealers who've avoided preparing for servicing TPMS can attend a seminar on that topic. They also can learn how to protect their businesses from product liability accusations and tap into the knowledge of some of the industry's most successful dealers.
New this year, veteran dealer Don Olson is hosting a seminar on ``The three most important simple management tools to help you successfully run your business.''
But AAIW is more than SEMA. There's the AAPEX (Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo) Show going on at the same time, with more seminars and another huge trade show filled with equipment and products and people who can offer ideas to help make your dealership more profitable and efficient.
So the question remains: Will this be the year to attend? Or will the excuses win out again?