eCommerce is a rapidly growing channel within the Automotive Aftermarket, with online shopping expected to be a permanent shift, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an industry report released by the Automotive & Aftermarket and eCommerce investment banking teams at Brown Gibbons Lang & Company (BGL). Resilient demand, passionate consumers, and market fragmentation are among the draws attracting capital inflows into the industry, and eCommerce is an area where investors are showing continued and increasing levels of interest.

BGL and contributor Hedges & Company (Hedges), an automotive digital marketing agency, examined trends within the automotive & aftermarket eCommerce channel in the U.S., which is undergoing a fundamental shift in consumer buying behavior, fast-tracked by the pandemic. The report also features an eCommerce roundtable, compiled through discussions with industry executives, documenting a favorable industry outlook. Rich Spratt, CEO of Motis Brands and a roundtable participant, commented on the eCommerce channel expansion: “We anticipate that the consumer changes of 2020 will have a lasting impact. To the extent that we accelerated the migration to digital shopping, that growth is here to stay.”

Aftermarket consumers are increasingly going digital, with the online purchasing shift expected to be lasting. While still a small percentage of overall aftermarket sales, eCommerce represents a significant area of future growth given the “stickiness” of channel sales:

  • According to Hedges’ data, eCommerce growth in 2020 is projected to reach 50% year-over-year, beating mid-year forecasts, with sales approaching $18 billion —up from $2.9 billion in 2010, a 20% compounded annual growth rate.
  • By March 2021, Hedges estimates that more than 35% of consumers will be buying auto parts and accessories online when compared to the same period in 2020. Monthly online sales have increased, on average, by 50 percent year-over-year since April 2020. The figures were compiled from an analysis of nearly 100 million website visits.

Strategic and financial buyers remain highly active, underscoring optimism about future opportunities, with mergers & acquisitions activity exhibiting strong momentum continuing into 2021. In 2020, acquisitive First Brands Group completed three transactions over a six-month period, picking up Centric Parts in December, and Brake Parts and Champion Labs in August. Among the recent aftermarket acquisitions involving financial sponsors: in February 2021, The Wheel Group (Wynnchurch Capital); Bluedevil Products (Highline-Warren) in January 2021; and Highline Aftermarket (Pritzker Private Capital) and Parts Authority (Kohlberg & Company)— in the fourth quarter of 2020.