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The first group-produced catalog of the appliance service industry, the Armstrong Value Parts catalog, had a stormy 1971 beginning.

Sylvia Lurie related the events in a history of the National Appliance Parts Suppliers Association (NAPSA). “MEETING THE CHALLENGE: NAPSA 1966-1981” “The problem of the catalog had been building up for some years. Many NAPSA members wanted an industry catalog to use in their marketing efforts and had been trying ever since the association was formed to put one together under this association’s auspices.”

By 1970, NAPSA had established guidelines for manufacturers to use in preparing parts literature and had purchased a stock of special loose-leaf catalog binders. Many felt this effort did not fully meet the members’ marketing needs.

Other attempts to put together a better catalog floundered because of disagreements over which parts should be included and because it was impossible for an association produced catalog to include the price lists members needed.

Eventually, in 1971, a group of NAPSA member companies decided to “print the son-of-a-bitch ourselves” and formed a private company (w.d. armstrong corporation) for that purpose. FTC regulations required them to enroll participants whose marketing territories made them non-competitive to each other so that the catalog could include prices.

Several NAPSA members who were not invited to join w.d. armstrong learned of the venture and reacted in outrage at the San Antonio meeting in 1971. They led a dramatic attack on “the conspiracy coming out of the Southeast” and demanded that all armstrong group members be expelled from NAPSA.

NAPSA and armstrong both survived the difficult birthing process and armstrong has grown and prospered.

The first armstrong catalog hit the repairman’s mailbox in the fall of 1972 with 288 pages, 5-1/2” X 8-1/2”, filled with parts, tools and cross reference charts. Each item was priced on the page at NET WHOLESALE from the manufacturer suggested lists or by consensus of the parts distributors who bore the cost of publishing, printing and mailing.

Members of w.d. armstrong had agreed on a basic policy format:
1. Distribution of catalog through exclusive territories.
2. Mailing lists were maintained by armstrong, with all catalogs and monthly fliers mailed directly from the printer to dealers and repair agencies.
3. Distributor members were to create individual copy for monthly fliers to be printed and mailed by armstrong.
4. Other distributors could be added to the group in uncommitted territories only.

The armstrong distributors went about their catalog business with all the energy and fervor of a labor of love. The book was on its way to becoming the leading reference manual of the appliance parts industry.

Armstrong produced two catalog printings every year with each issue featuring new items and current pricing. The creators took great pride in producing more and thicker catalogs with each printing. All were mailed on the demanding April/October schedule.

Industry changes in the 80’s brought challenges to some of the armstrong members when they were approached by certain appliance manufacturers with an opportunity to become distributors of “Original Equipment Manufacturer” (OEM) parts instead of the non-OEM products featured in the armstrong catalog. A new evolution began as the newly appointed OEM distributors petitioned the group to make changes in the featured products.

The first change was the addition of optional front catalog sections of copy created on an individual basis. As copy was produced featuring OEM sole source items, the substitution of OEM alternatives for some of the non-OEM parts increased and the “OEM Catalog” was born.

Over the years a few changes have occurred in the way territories are established and in 1996 the decision was made to discontinue the fall issue. Today the catalogs are printed once a year in April.

For several years, different catalogs were printed for the several types of parts distributors in the market; there were “regular” non-OEM catalogs, OEM catalogs and several styles of “hybrid” catalogs.

The industry continued the drift away from non-OEM parts and in 2002 armstrong catalog production was consolidated into one catalog for all.

Also in 2002, the catalog page size was changed from the old 5-1/2” X 8-1/2” to 7” X 9”. The 2005 catalog carries 768 pages.

Each parts supplier who provides catalogs to the trade justifies the expense in the hope of reducing research time required to exactly identify any particular part. Matching a picture or number stamped on an old part almost always gives the best chance of quick and correct identification. Model numbers and educated guesses are often OK but nothing has a worse effect on the income than a broken-down appliance waiting for the wrong part. Another consideration is that repair people who study catalogs can often find or negotiate better prices on parts. Though there are no guarantees, prices in current catalogs can usually be relied upon as a guide for estimation repair jobs.

If you are a tech in a territory not served by an armstrong distributor (see WAREHOUSE LOCATIONS) you may order by mail and enclose $10 for each catalog copy.

© 1971 - 2007 W.D. Armstrong corp. W.D. Armstrong Corp has multiple copyright registrations that also protect W.D. Armstrong Corp’s printed materials, including print versions of its copyrighted catalogs and flyers promoting products. All rights reserved. The unauthorized use or distribution of the copyrighted material(s) of W.D. Armstrong Corp without the express, written permission of W.d. Armstrong Corp is strictly prohibited