The aftermarket auto parts seller’s Q4 and fiscal year sales dipped, but CEO Thomas Greco says e-commerce for both business and consumer customers is outpacing sales in stores.

Advance Auto Parts Inc.’s revenue declined 2% in 2017 despite online sales growth among professional repair technicians and consumers.

The aftermarket auto parts dealer’s online sales outpaced total sales growth, “both in terms of DIY and in terms of professional” customers, CEO and president Thomas Greco told analysts on Wednesday’s year-end earnings call. Advance sells to professional vehicle repair and restoration shops and to do-it-yourself (DIY) consumers.

The aftermarket auto parts dealer’s online sales outpaced total sales growth, 'both in terms of DIY and in terms of professional' customers.
Thomas Greco, CEO
Advance Auto Parts Inc.

Advance does not break out online sales in either category, but “we were very excited about the growth that we’ve had in online, and we’re going to continue to invest in it. Our website improvements were significant in the back half of” 2017, Greco said on the call, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.

Website upgrades included reducing page load times and the number of clicks to check out, Greco said.

Professional customers go online to access parts for cars and light trucks, repair technician training and other services, and such business tools such as marketing software through the company’s Advance Commercial portal on its website,


Advance also sells online to professionals through its site, which carries parts for imported vehicles, and through 129 stores in the U.S. and Canada. The Worldpac site offers technician training, marketing programs and other services. The Worldpac division also operates more than 100 distribution facilities throughout the United States and Canada.

As part of its continuing initiative to make products and services information available both online and in stores, Advance provides what it calls “cross-banner visibility.” Said Greco, “We believe AAP has the strongest lineup of professional brands in the market. And cross-banner visibility enables both professional customers and all Advance, Carquest and Worldpac team members to see a broader range of inventory across the enterprise and place their order from one platform.”

Advance provides parts to company-owned and independent Carquest vehicle parts and accessories stores in North America, Mexico, and several Caribbean and Pacific islands. Advance, No. 109 in the 2018 B2B E-Commerce 300, operates more than 5,000 stores in many of those countries and regions as well.

In 2017 Advance rolled out an e-commerce tool to about 12,000 professional customers, including 4,000 in Q4, Greco said. The technology, called Advance Pro, “allows our professional customers to fully access our common catalog, and we plan to double the number of customers utilizing this platform in 2018,” he said.


Advance will continue to expand in North America in 2018. “In some markets across North America, our store presence is limited. In these markets, we intend to accelerate Worldpac branch openings to drive professional growth while investing in marketing, online and digital to drive DIY,” Greco said. “Regardless of the inherent differences in each market, our objective is consistent: strengthen our customer value proposition and gain market share.”

As part of its continuing “strategic transformation,” begun in 2016 with Greco’s hiring, new board members and a decentralized decision-making structure, Advance aims to strengthen relationships with brand-name parts suppliers. In Q4 the company announced a deal with Interstate Batteries, which will serve both professional and consumer customers. “In terms of DIY, AAP will be the only retailer in the nation carrying a complete lineup of Interstate Batteries in-store and online,” Greco said.

Advance has concluded, based on its own market research, that “brands are extremely important, not just to our DIY customers, even more so on the professional side,” Thomas Okray, chief financial officer, said on the earnings call. The deal with Interstate Battery, which he said is the leading battery among professional installers, is just the beginning. “We are working actively with our supplier community right now to find more.” Okray declined to offer details on new supplier agreements.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, Advance reported:

  • Total sales of $2.037 billion, down 2.2% from $2.083 billion in the prior year quarter;
  • Gross profit of $873.6 million, down 3.7% from $907.6 million, resulting in a gross profit margin of 42.9%, comparted with 43.6% in the same quarter last year;
  • Net income of $184.5 million, up 195.7% from $62.4 million in Q4 2016.

For the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2017, Advance reported:

  • Total sales of $9.374, down 2.0% from $9.568 billion.
  • Gross profit of $4.09 billion, down 4.0% from $4.26 billion, resulting in a gross profit margin of 43.6%, compared with 44.5% in the same period last year;
  • Net income of $475.5 million, up 3.5% from $459.6 million in fiscal 2016.

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