Is the Auto Aftermarket Healthy? SEMA Says Yes

Jason R. Sakurai
by Jason R. Sakurai
is the auto aftermarket healthy sema says yes

SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, has released its Fall 2020 State of the Industry report, which denotes the health of the automotive aftermarket despite the disruption caused by COVID-19. This report provides companies with the information needed to make good business decisions, not to put a positive spin on a time of uncertainty.

Estimates on how sales have changed over the last year and during the lockdown vary widely, from a shortage of tires and wheels at Phoenix, Arizona’s Warehouse Tire Distributor USA, to advertising delays and cancellations for OutdoorX4, an enthusiast media company based in Spring, Texas.

According to SEMA, in-store sales and other physical channels continue to outpace online sales. Online sales accounted for 39 percent of sales prior to the pandemic, rising to 44 percent since masking was implemented. Fifty-sevdn percent of buyers prefer physical stores, no doubt assisted by retailers and installers being designated as ‘essential’ nationwide. Whether this had anything to do with SEMA’s Political Action Committee, their Congressional Motorsports Caucus, or the work they do with state and local governments is unknown, but the fact remains that speed shops and truck outfitters are open, unlike restaurants, hair salons, or gyms.

The lock down that occurred in the second quarter of 2020 caused the biggest disruption, but sales rebounded in Q3, and manufacturers like Hobbs Truck and Jeep Accessories, distributors, and retailers have increased sales as other businesses reopened. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 93 percent said it’s business as usual, or had a short-term downturn. Fifty-five percent of companies expect 2020 sales to finish higher than the previous year, optimism that is not shared by many other types of businesses.

Due to COVID-19 and the resultant lack of inventory at stores, more day-to-day necessities have purchased by consumers online. As the country reopens and the virus situation improves, buyers will shop more in-store, especially for the aftermarket’s specialized goods and services. Although some manufacturers have gone direct to consumer (DTC) during the pandemic with good results, most don’t foresee continuing to ship items one by one when they are more accustomed to large wholesale orders from distributors and retailers.

What’s the biggest takeaway from the lockdown? Enthusiasts used their down time or furloughs to work on their vehicles, driving up sales in many product categories. While light-duty pickups are the most popular and commanded the biggest share of aftermarket spending, most segments are growing including classic cars and SUVs. With the fluctuation between reopening and staying at home, it appears that until the coronavirus recedes, we’re going to continue to spend more time and money in the garage.

[Images: © 2020 J. Sakurai/TTAC]

Join the conversation
  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Dec 03, 2020

    "Fifty-sevdn percent" Is that Swedish? LOL I have found that replacement tires for my truck have been hard to find. I started shopping around for an all-terrain mid-summer but the ones I preferred weren't available. I ended up getting a set of Yokohama Geolander A/T's on sale. I then had to wait a month for the winter tire change season to slow down before I could get them mounted. They've been excellent on snow, slush, water and ice.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Dec 04, 2020

    OEM or walk. [grin]

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Dec 06, 2020

      With older vehicles, OEM parts can be hard to find, or are available only at horrific prices. People are keeping cars longer, and have been modifying them with non-OEM parts.

  • SCE to AUX This is not a race worth winning.
  • JMII These would sell better if they came with a service to drop it off (with new tires and brakes) at which ever track you decided to visit per weekend. While its small it still doesn't fit on a private jet and there aren't many tracks close to where your yacht can be docked. 1st world problems here.
  • JMII Its an SUV so I am shocked they don't already offer it.
  • Analoggrotto As we Tesla owners receive our life energy from the greatest son of the gods of all time, Elon Musk; His cherubs and His nephilim may remove whatever they wish from us for unto him we owe all for our superiority above all the rest of humanity.
  • Kcflyer Nice to see California giving NY some competition to be the worst run state in the union.