Do-it-yourself auto tinkering just got a bit easier for Jacksonville residents.
1A Auto, the nation’s leading online-only aftermarket auto parts retailer, is now operating from its new Southeast U.S. distribution facility — with its first cargo already arriving at its warehouse near JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.
With Florida as one of its top markets for customers nationwide, 1A Auto Head of Logistics Rich Higgins says the Southeast was the next place to be.
“When I arrived at the company, we had two fulfillment centers in Massachusetts and in Kansas, and all our products were being shipped from those two locations,” he said. “We opened our third center in Reno a little over a year ago, but over time with so many of our customers heavily based in Florida, it was not a smart thing from a logistics perspective. In some cases, we paid significantly more to ship parcels from those centers to Florida.
“Now, with this facility, we will be able to ship to our Florida customers in a one-to-two day period rather than a three-to-five day period … and we’re paying less for shipping because our packages go through fewer zones.”
Founded in 1999 by Rick Green out of a family garage, 1A Auto’s popularity has soared by catering directly to do-it-yourselfers through its website. The company offers more than 8,000 how-to videos to help consumers complete their own auto repairs and offers a wide range of parts for autos from a 1926 Chrysler Imperial to a 2021 Toyota Corolla — and nearly everything in between.
The company touts a massive parts data base and handles more than 25,000 auto parts. Some of the company’s biggest selling items include brakes, rotors, struts, hubs, headlights, mirrors, gas tanks, shocks, radiators and electrical items.
“Our customers are changing headlights, brakes and rotors, and we show the customer how to do the work,” Higgins said. “So not only do they buy the products from us, but they’re also able to do the work themselves. Obviously, we offer good prices, but we provide the knowledge, as well.”
1A Auto is also riding a wave when it comes to e-commerce, which saw a rapid acceleration last year with the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to Tech Crunch, e-commerce in the U.S. alone is on track to record its first $1 trillion year by 2022 due to lasting pandemic impacts.
A new report by Adobe says the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted U.S. online shopping by $183 billion. For comparison, $813 billion was spent online during the calendar year 2020, which was up 42 percent over 2019. But from March 2020, when the pandemic began in the U.S, through February 2021, U.S. consumers spent a total of $844 billion online. The firm expects this growth to continue in the years ahead, reaching $1 trillion by 2022.
“As we have seen over the last several years, brick-and-mortar is going away and e-commerce has exploded for the last 15 years and it’s not going to stop, especially when we have something like this pandemic going on,” Higgins said. “People are just buying and having the products show up at their door, and that’s not just auto parts, but all types of consumer goods”
As for why the company chose JAXPORT over other ports in the Southeast beyond the logistics perspective, it helped that Higgins had established relationships throughout the state: he spent about 10 years working out of Beall’s Corporate Headquarters in Bradenton, Florida.
“I had very good relationships with the folks in Jacksonville and was already familiar with the port itself and a lot of the key players that I knew then are still there, so it was an easy recommendation from that perspective,” he said. “They’re also really good when it comes to helping us make connections with local and state officials, which have all helped us obtain the permits and approvals necessary to attain an expeditious opening.”
According to Robert Peek, JAXPORT General Manager of Business Development, a number of factors guide companies like 1A Auto to set up shop here.
“Our strategic location offers e-commerce retailers fast, efficient access to their customers in Florida and the region,” Peek said. “Northeast Florida also has a much larger and skilled workforce than many of our competitors, and the first question many of these companies ask is about available labor.”
Peek adds that JAXPORT’s proximity to several U.S. interstates and major sort centers, including UPS, USPS and FedEx, expedites “final mile delivery” — the last leg of a product’s journey from the distribution center to the customer.
“When a company evaluates our area’s port, transportation and distribution infrastructure, and regional population and workforce, they often choose us over the competition,” Peek said. “Also, customers know that our harbor deepening project will be completed in 2022. This has captured the attention of some of the nation’s largest businesses, which are now building facilities here.”
Higgins notes that while the facility is now officially open, it will be a couple of months before they are operating at full capacity.
“We’re in the beginning stages, and while we’re shipping on a daily basis it’s still on a small basis right now,” he said. “We’ve only received a handful of containers so far and another 10 or so truckloads of products from our other distribution centers. We’ll have to rely on products coming in from our other centers for a time, so it will be several months before we have all the inventory that we want to have in Jacksonville.”
1A Auto’s JAXPORT operation is expected to create 30 new jobs initially, and the company hopes to grow to 100 jobs within the first couple of years. Learn more at 1AAuto.com.