AutoZone Hits 400 in Mexico!
I will be the first person to stand up and say I never thought this would happen 15 years ago. I remember clear as day the first visit I received from an AutoZoner at the trade show booth in Guadalajara, Mexico back in the early 2000’s. I knew AZ at the time had a few stores along the border but they were kind of the outsider looking in to a relatively closed market, led by VW, Nissan and some odd subcompact big 3 vehicles. We (Mexican Aftermarket) knew their size in the states but we also knew that the Mexican market was so different from a vehicle population point of view that AZ would struggle early on. That day, Mr. B from AZ told me, “We are going to open 200 stores in the next 2-3 years.” and I thought to myself, “not gonna happen”. Time went on and the market watched AutoZone struggle through the cultural barrier, supply chain headaches, product mix issues and everything else you could imagine a US firm pushing a US style store into the Republic of Mexico would face.
Fast forward 12 years to 2014 and WOW, these men and women have pulled off an exponential growth across the entire country. They did not pack up and go back to the United States when life was difficult early on, rather, they continued to invest in the country both in buildings but more importantly, their internal culture across their employee base. As with most very large companies on the US side of the border, there is a corporate culture created to uphold the mission statements and values / beliefs of the organization. AutoZone is where they are today in Mexico due to hard work and investment in human capital. Do they face the same turnover issues that most parts stores will see at a retail level, of course they do; however, their Centro de Atencion de Tiendas (CAT as most know it) in Monterrey houses a tremendous group of talent that is focused on growing the business through supporting the stores across country. From merchandizing to logistics, government regulations, HR and Quality…AutoZone has done everything necessary to grow exponentially in Mexico.
There are several Aftermarket retailers / wholesalers in Mexico who have their act together and enjoy nice chunks of the market. We should not forget what several families have accomplished over the past 60-70 years in Mexico with other solid distribution businesses but at the same time, 0 to 400 stores in 16 years when the next closest competitor lags behind by 275 stores is an accomplishment that should be respected in the industry.
What will the final store count be…that is something that I believe has a TBD as an answer right now. What I believe is safe to say is that the final count won’t be 401. To all the employees of AutoZone, especially those who I have had the opportunity to work with over the years and especially to the first one I met way back when, Mr. A.B….Congratulations and best of luck on future expansion! You made this doubter turn into a believer.