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A boost in direct sales is pandemic’s silver lining

Many manufacturers selling direct to consumers through their ecommerce websites have experienced dramatic increases in sales

As a 35-plus year veteran in the automotive aftermarket developing strategic marketing plans and product launches for well-known brands and new start-ups, I can say unequivocally that the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been as dramatic as I have ever seen. Period.

Zan Martin, Martin & Company

On one hand, many businesses have had massive layoffs, furloughed a large percentage of staff and made extensive changes in how to go to market. Some, unfortunately, are facing bankruptcy. However, I know firsthand that many manufacturers selling direct to consumers through their ecommerce websites have experienced dramatic increases in sales — especially those with American-made products and raw materials.

As the agency of record for American Powertrain, who assist muscle car owners in equipping their cars with modern drivetrain technology, it’s been exciting to watch their explosive growth.

According to the company’s marketing director Matt Graves, “We had a 24-percent sales increase this year. Several factors helped this: we increased our online advertising spend with Google and social media since more people are online now more than ever, and the stimulus checks got people motivated to buy.

“I am hearing that growth in direct sales is happening industry-wide.”

“Since everyone was at home this gave them more time to work on their cars. Usually, this part of the year is our slowdown when car show season starts up. But it’s had the opposite effect for us. Since there are no car shows, people have more time to upgrade their projects.”

When checking in on another one of our clients, Howell EFI, which is a U.S. manufacturer of electronic fuel injection and throttle body kits and components, they reported that the company’s sales have been brisk during the pandemic and it is running about five weeks behind schedule on orders. The delay in orders is not based on supply chain from China, but rather unprecedented demand.

In ongoing discussions with peers throughout the past four months, I am hearing that growth in direct sales is happening industry-wide.

Another client, Lubrication Specialties Inc., manufacturer of Hot Shot’s Secret high performance specialty oils and additives, has experienced solid sales these past few months. As a chemical company, they were in a unique position to respond to the public’s need for hand sanitizer, at first producing small batches for local need as a giveaway. The company has now pivoted to producing hand sanitizer for purchase proving that “necessity is the mother of invention.”

Though they took precautions to have people work from home for some time, they did not greatly reduce production and distribution of product and did not have to furlough their staff.

I have agonized over how my fellow industry manufacturers are struggling during these challenging times. If you would like a no-charge ecommerce strategy audit and consultation, we can provide you with one.


Zan Martin is the founder of Martin & Company, a full-service marketing solutions firm located in Nashville, Tenn. A SEMA member for three decades, she is a prior SEMA board member, prior chair of the SEMA Business Women’s Network (SBN), and former SBN Athena Award recipient.

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