July '20

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20 THE SHOP JULY 2020 monplace in the last decade as the entire truck accessories market continues to grow, says Patel. "Similar to how bumpers have come far from simple bolt-on tubular products, winches have also evolved from basic utili- tarian devices to functional and aesthetic aids. I can't imagine a heavy-duty truck bumper without a 12,000-pound-plus winch inside of it." Lilienthal adds that market evolution includes the typical bigger-and-better scenario. "Vehicles have become larger and heavier in many respects, so we don't offer as many lower-capacity winches, especially for trucks and SUVs. Our truck winches start at 8,000 pounds now where they previously were at 6,000, and go all the way to 16,500 pounds. Our powersports winches now go all the way up to 5,500 pounds." Another change: With the internet, buyers these days are more knowledge- able than ever. "Customers in all segments have become better informed and are much more likely to shop around before making a buying decision," says Stein. And that consumer involvement has affected what suppliers now offer, adds Van Dongen. "More and more consumers understand what the purpose is of a winch and why they should have one, even if they will only use it occasionally," he says. "The other change is the quality found at lower price points. Where it used to be a sizeable investment, you can now get something for a few hundred bucks." Overall, Whitty explains, there's a greater understanding between winch manufac- turers and their customers. "The off-road community is expanding, and customers are more educated. As people strive for experiences over posses- sions, the off-road community answers that call for many," he says. "The digital age brought essential winch information to the forefront that is now easily accessible. Our customers are more informed and better equipped to make purchasing decisions based on personalized needs. Customers can now access reviews, tutorials, specifi- cations and application guides online and do not need years of experience to make informed purchases. Product quality is very exposed, so brands must be on their A games more than ever." A LOT TO LEARN With so much going on, it can be difficult for shops to keep up on all the latest winch market developments. Here, the manu- facturers share some common mistakes to avoid. "A common mistake is assuming one winch fits all," says Cameron Quiroz, dis- trict sales representative for Superwinch. "Customers are often being sold under- rated winches for their application. A 9,500-pound winch is not always the best option for a Jeep, just as a large-bodied 15,000-pound winch isn't best for all trucks. Taking the fully loaded GVWR into consid- eration is essential when choosing a winch." Van Dongen of Rugged Ridge agrees. "Understand how the consumer is going to use the winch over the coming years. Strong Connection Whether they're hitting the trails with a 4WD vehicle or using them on a work truck, the ranch's UTV or an ATV while on the farm, there's a broad audience for winches. (Photo courtesy Warn Industries) The opportunities for winch sales are plentiful. (Photo courtesy Warn Industries) Consumers are more educated than ever on the offerings available in the winch market, but still rely on shops for professional advice and experience. (Photo courtesy Rugged Ridge)

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