By Andy Fiffick, Owner Rad Air Complete Car Care, Cleveland, OH
After a near record 2012 spring season we have
experienced a decline in car count in our shops since May. In these slower
times you begin to question everything—is our advertising and marketing on
target? Is our price structure competitive? Are we doing enough to retain our
clients? Is our service up to par?
To keep everything in perspective, I contacted several of our fellow MACS
members to see how their businesses were doing. I called all major markets and
both small and large shops. Surprisingly every shop owner told me the same
thing: business is down 15% to 20% across the board since spring. In some weird
sense, this made me feel better knowing that I’m not alone in the downturn.
However, this news is a deep concern to all of us in the aftermarket repair
I began to wonder why all of our car counts are down and came up with the
following universal reasons in no particular order:
1. Political mess and election
year, plus the “Fiscal Cliff”: no one is happy and consumer confidence is down.
2. Economy recovered justenough and new cars are inexpensive again. Many opting for new vehicles and not fixing the old.
3. Economy recovered just
enough and interest rates are low; many jumped into the housing market and put off vehicle repairs.
4. For many, the economy has not recovered at all and they simply don’t have the funds to repair their vehicles.
5. News: all we hear is doom
and gloom and another double dip recession is upon us.
6. Competition in advertising
has reached epic levels, and I believe will continue to get more extreme as we all scramble for clients. How much “Cheap and FREE” can the market tolerate?
7. Quotas, “spiff” programs,
dishonesty and malpractice in the industry give us all a black eye.
8. New vehicle franchised dealerships selling nearly every vehicle with a two to three year maintenance package included.
9. Vehicles are built better, reduced maintenance needs, and increased LOF intervals.
I am sure I missed a few other reasons; nonetheless, I have experienced many
sleepless nights contemplating how we can overcome and combat all of my
perceived reasons for our reduced car count and I have come up with a scary
conclusion! There is really nothing I or we can do to change the political or
economic climate; we cannot eliminate the unscrupulous and dishonest shops, and
we cannot fight the new franchised dealerships or better built vehicles.
Still, there is much more we can do to raise our bar even higher; however, we
are not going to change a thing in our operations. Our brand and the service we
provided over 37 years of being the good, honest and reliable shop will remain.
We will continue to fix what the client came in for, strive to get it right the
first time, charge a fair price, make sure our clients are happy and not force
feed unneeded repairs. These philosophies and practices have gotten us to where
we are today, and we will not abandon them!
I am, however, going to increase our advertising budget and our civic and
client-retention programs. We need to attract new clients and also educate the
public that we are the good guys and gals, and they do have an alternative for
quality maintenance, repairs and service with us.
I know it sounds cliché; however, in my 37 years in this industry I have
experienced many ups and downs and we have always survived by being forthright,
honest and working hard for our clients. This downturn too shall pass, and we
are looking forward to a new and better future.
Additionally, if you have any thoughts or ideas you would like to share, please
call or e-mail. I will be happy to pass along any info to our membership.
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