Friday, November 19, 2010

Living and breathing high performance.(WHOLESALE).

Bow and arrow on the Embarcadero, originally uploaded by *k t*.

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Arrow Speed Warehouse are not just employees, but car aficionados--especially when it comes to performance. Whether it's serving the high performance market or performing well themselves, the folks at Arrow Speed in Kansas City, Kan., live and breathe their work. And it shows in the company's dedication to progress, improvement and innovation.

The company started out as Arrow Speed Shop in 1957. In the early 1970s, it evolved from a mix of retail and wholesale to wholesale only, serving the high performance and truck accessories market. Now, seven locations from Minnesota to Texas serve the central and southeast U.S.

Although the company has kept its focus on these markets, the specialties have shifted over the years as the market has evolved. Fifteen years ago, Arrow Speed Warehouse carried a mix of 80-percent performance parts and 20-percent truck parts and accessories. Today, the split is 50/50.

Ron Coppaken, president and owner, explains the shift: "Demand for truck accessories has exploded in the last 15 years. At the same time, there have been other distributors that have chosen to pursue the truck side and abandon their performance efforts."

Coppaken has been with the company for 32 years and has worked intimately to help them capitalize on the shifting demand. Although the performance category has slowed in comparison with the truck market, Coppaken sees room for growth, especially when it comes to improving technology.

"We think there is still enough performance business to go around," he says. "Both markets continue to grow. The performance category may have seen some flattening, where truck is growing more rapidly, (but) as technology continues to develop on performance, I think we'll see some exciting stuff.

"We've seen it already in diesel performance. Sales are going through the roof. As manufacturers continue to build horsepower, and as aftermarket folks continue to tweak power up electronically, I think we'll see that."

Arrow carefully watches the market and listens to its customers to keep their inventory at the top of its game.

"Everyone can't afford to inventory everything they want--inventory management is a challenge to any distributor. It's really all about listening to the customer, attending events like SEMA and PRI, so you have a good grasp on the market. We also rely on manufacturers' representation. Good reps are bringing news and information to you all the time, which is crucial to being able to react."

When it comes to products, Coppaken says they're looking at "continued development of high-tech performance modifications. We're getting a lot more interest in electronics, air intakes and exhaust. Those are the keys in making vehicles perform."

Coppaken also sees the advantage that being high-tech in the workplace has had on his company. Technology has pervaded all avenues of Arrow Speed Warehouse, not just when stocking in-demand parts and accessories, but when it comes to sales, customer service and growth opportunities.

"We are traditional when it comes to sales," he says. "Our staff is highly qualified and has been cultivated through extensive internal industry training. We utilize very little in the way of people who can just take a phone call. We feel that we've got one of the most technically savvy sales rooms. They can really answer a customer's questions."

The staff there understands the category because of intense training.

"We've been told that we have the most comprehensive training of any distributor. We hold a training session for all inside salespeople each week. Sometimes twice." Arrow Speed also carries this type of training over to their customers. They recently partnered with Holley in Tulsa, Okla., to put on a training seminar for local speed shops.

Through extensive training and employing the latest technology, the company is investing in its future. Coppaken feels technology provides tremendous efficiencies for the company and industry and would like to see a big push in the future.

Arrow recently implemented a new computer system and added new staff, including a director of IT and two new developers. Now, the company is working to get customers more comfortable with the tools and services that can increase their productivity, such as Arrow Online, where customers can check inventory and order online.

"As a whole, we have to lead the horse to water--customers are not particularly savvy. The goal is to provide efficiency and service."

The vital stats

Years in business: 48 years

Growth plans: Controlled growth with the current warehouses, and the possibility of opening more locations in the future, most likely in the Southeast and Northeast.

Number of employees: 300

Wholesale/retail ratio: 100/0

Snapshot of Arrow Speed Warehouse: Established in 1957, Arrow Speed Warehouse has served the automotive aftermarket on a "wholesale only" basis, specializing in performance and truck accessories. The family-owned and operated company covers virtually all of the Central and Southeast United States.

Affiliation: They are an exclusive source for Performance Corner and TruckGear jobber marketing programs in the Central and Eastern United States.

Competition: Reliable Automotive, Keystone Automotive, Motorstate Distributing

Locations/Facility size: The main facility in Kansas City, Kan., is 100,000 sq. feet, and other locations in Tulsa, St. Louis, St. Paul, Dallas, Houston and Nashville total over 300,000 sq. feet.

Source Citation
Cormier, Renee. "Living and breathing high performance." Aftermarket Business 115.7 (2005): 1. General OneFile. Web. 19 Nov. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A135649531 USA, LLC
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