As the auto body business matures and evolves, so do other segments of the industry including suppliers of information systems, equipment, paints and supplies. Paint and material distributors or jobbers are changing in order to meet the changing needs of their body shop clients. I asked several industry friends to share their thoughts and predictions.
Glenn Martin, president of Martin Auto Color, a multiple-location jobber in California and Nevada stated: "I feel that the jobber of the future will not look a lot like we do today. I feel that our shop customers will require greater analysis of their purchasing and product group usage, as well as tighter, more accurate inventory control. Jobbers will have to partner in customer shops’ profitability and provide all this from an ever-improving technical platform. Toughest of all, we will need to do all this with fewer people, meaning higher productivity from the higher paid folks that work with us.”
These sentiments have been a theme of conversation, strategic planning and meetings for years within the jobber community. The customer base (shops) is not the only segment consolidating. Jobber and paint manufacturers have also seen consolidation in their segments. Several national and regional jobbers are vying for the body shops business, sometimes with resources difficult for smaller jobbers to match. The need to add services to aide their shop clients, while at the same time struggling with reduced margins, has taxed many jobbers to their limits.
“I see a lot of consolidation in the jobber segment. I see profit margins shrinking for the jobbers due to the shop consolidation and the discounts being given to large MSOs; therefore, the jobbers need to focus on their core customers and assist them with growing by connecting them with potential acquisition targets,” said Mike Anderson of Collision Advice.
“The unprecedented discounting, which is being employed to secure sales volume, is requiring distributors to survive on thinner margins. Distributors are therefore having to adjust their organizational structure, physical assets and operating models to support their profit margins to survive,” says Paul Whittleston, vice president, BASF Automotive Refinish, North America. “Today’s market conditions create an opportunity for the most successful distributors to partner more closely than ever with their paint manufacturer. By developing true partnerships, costs and duplication of efforts can be removed from the value chain, creating efficiencies to be passed on to the end customers.”
Turning data into information is a task many jobbers have taken on. Being a conduit of information to core shops both large and small is one way that several jobbers have found to add value to their offerings. Beyond the obvious color and material information, being a conduit for everything from general industry information to specific product training will likely continue to be a part of many jobbers’ service offerings. There are several jobbers that provide in shop, virtual and live classroom training. This trend will likely increase with the rapid advancements in both repair and OEM materials. A couple areas where jobbers will likely continue to provide information and services include SOPs, inventory and replenishment, KPIs and compliance assistance for both regional and local regulations.