I was at an industry event earlier this year, in the weeks right after Caliber Collision’s merger with Abra Auto Body Repair of America closed, and it was a topic that I presumed would be weighing heavily on the minds of the independent shops at the event. So I was surprised when I brought it up in conversation how far off their radar it was.
“Oh no, we’re fine,” they would say when I asked if they were thinking about what a 1,000-shop MSO could mean for their business.
“No, we’re cool; it doesn’t effect us,” I heard multiple times.
Now, granted, this event was taking place in a state where the combined Caliber-Abra currently had just a handful of locations, not even in the state’s largest population center.
But still, the fact that independent shops weren’t thinking about a future in which they likely they will be competing with a large MSO – be it Caliber or one of the others, all of which have seem to be ramping up their growth efforts – baffled me. It made me wonder how much independent hardware stores were looking ahead before there was both a Home Depot and a Lowe’s in town, along with a couple of other independents who had become Ace Hardware franchises.
In the weeks since, I’ve been looking out at all the moving pieces of this industry and thinking about some of the scenarios that I could see happening. I don’t have any inside information on any of this so feel free to consider this nothing more than the ramblings from inside my brain.
But are you really not thinking about the challenge of trying to continue to fix nearly all makes and models? Even if you’re doing that today, chances are good that you’re not doing them all of them right. There’s just too much individualized information to know it all. How will you compete when an MSO comes in and can easily specialize in a few brands at each of its locations to cover the market?
So maybe you are thinking OEM certification will be the ticket for your business. Again, it probably doesn’t make economic sense to be certified by every automaker, so again, specialization seems inevitable.