After a few years of undertaking a transformation punctuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, PartSource is looking to enhance its footing in the Canadian automotive aftermarket space.
A division of Canadian Tire, one of Canada’s largest companies, has moved much of its focus away from retail customers and is making greater inroads to the commercial side of the industry.
“Our focus has been shifting to better service the commercial business over the last couple of years,” explained Sean Stokes, vice president of parts and general manager of PartSource.
Most PartSource locations were set up under a 50-50 model where half the store served retail customers and half was a warehouse of parts. Now, the vast majority — about 85 per cent, according to Stokes — of a store is dedicated to parts, with the remaining for retail.
Why shift? The market has been under disruption for many years now. There are fewer do-it-yourselfers as it’s become harder and harder to service your own vehicle.
And the company found trying to satisfy both sides of the market wasn’t working out too well. When the company looked at commercial, they saw growth opportunities. So rather than cater to both, it chose to focus on one side and do that well.
“But in order to capture some of that growth, we really need to change how we go to market,” Stokes said. “So we need to improve the amount of inventory we have in our stores. We need to expand the number of hubs we have across the country. We need to continue to look at, unique value proposition for our commercial customers.”
For example, PartSource launched a new commercial app in the middle of a pandemic. It can scan a VIN and order products directly from the company that relate to that vehicle.
“We launched that during the pandemic because we thought that, now more than ever, it was important for us to make it easier for commercial customers with everything they’ve been facing,” Stoked explained.
PartSource stores used to be franchised but all 82 stores are now corporately owned. The company operates across Canada except in B.C. and New Brunswick. The company celebrated 25 years of business in 2021. But brand recognition is still a bit of a challenge.
“Awareness continues to be something that we’re focusing on, even within existing markets,” Stokes said. “Some commercial or retail customers don’t know that PartSource exists.”