Online Retail in Detail Part 1 - Equipment Dealers Embrace Opportunity

As the trend toward internet shopping grows and regulation could be looming, consumers are enjoying the convenience benefits while the burden on small business owners is only beginning. Learn why dealers are selling online.

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Over the past several years, consumers have researched their purchases online more and more. Along with the trend toward internet research before a purchase, the number of consumers who choose to ultimately buy their products online has also grown.

Outdoor power equipment parts have become a big online seller. A simple Google search for “buy lawnmower parts” draws over seven million results in less than half a second. A mix of manufacturer, dealer and aftermarket parts websites lead the results. Sites like offer replacement parts for outdoor power equipment and household items, along with DIY tutorials.

The auto parts industry, which sees many comparisons to the outdoor power equipment industry, has felt the impact of online parts sales. Car shows and swap meets are seeing fewer attendees and vendors, as more of them are turning to the internet for the selling and purchasing of parts.

According to Hedges & Company, a digital agency serving the automotive aftermarket industry, automotive aftermarket industry statistics show that online retail sales of automotive parts increased 12.4% from 2010 to 2011, 16.5% from 2011 to 2012, and is projected to grow 15.5% from 2012 to 2013.

Equipment dealers are selling

Outdoor power equipment is seeing some growth in online purchases as well. Results from informal polling of equipment dealers visiting offer some additional front-line insight into the growing business of online selling. While the polling data is not scientific, it may help paint a picture of where dealers stand on the issue today, and how their attitudes may be evolving.

Roughly 54% of dealers who took the survey do not sell parts online. Another 41% sell just a small amount. A small group of dealers (5%) said the internet is now playing a significant role in their overall parts operations, constituting more than 30% of parts sales.

Most dealers (72%) said their online parts business is not growing. Of those dealers who said it is growing, 82% said it's growing at a rate of less than 10% per year. A small group of dealers (5%) is growing online parts sales at a relatively fast clip of more than 20% per year.

Jerry Clay of Clay's Power Equipment in Raleigh, NC, has been selling parts online for roughly six years. Clay says those sales make up less than 5% of his total parts sales, but the numbers are growing. When he entered the online retail game, it was to connect with customers he wasn’t previously reaching.

“I saw internet sales growing as a whole, and that we were missing out on potential sales that we could be making,” says Clay. “Some customers don’t want to shop in stores and choose to do it online for convenience and time savings.”

Getting back to the dealer poll, 59% of dealers want to grow their online parts business. This is despite the fact that 65% of dealers do not think online selling is good for the industry. So why do so many dealers want to grow their online parts sales?

  • 21% said it's a free market and it's their right to
  • 24% said manufacturers are already doing it so they should as well
  • 10% said some dealers are already doing it so they better compete
  • 28% said other dealers aren't satisfying their local demand for replacement parts 

Click here to read Online Retail in Detail Part 2 - Contractors are Buying