Point of View: How’s Business? – UnderhoodService

Point of View: How’s Business?

Seems like I’ve heard that question and answered that question about 327,512 times since the beginning of the year. Late last year and early into 2009, “business is OK” had become the new “business is flat, but we’re hanging in there, hoping it gets better.” Not a very comforting response. But, from my current view, I’m seeing a pick up in business at the manufacturing and distribution levels. Business is getting better. And I’m not the only one saying that! All the studies I’ve seen over the past several months have indicated that the independent repair shop has seen a significant increase in business since late last year.

Our sister property, AMN (www.aftermarketnews.com) recently reported that repair orders were up significantly in January, to an average of 68 repair orders each week. This is an increase of four work orders per day, in a six-day work week. Put another way, the surveyed shops had a 55% increase in January, over their December ’08 work orders, and a 62% increase over January ’08. As more jobs are performed in the service bays, tool and equipment requirements will increase and flow back up the market channel from the technician. This should naturally lead to an increase in orders for the distributors and manufacturers.

On a daily basis, manufacturers and distributors look for creative ways to encourage you to buy their products. Sometimes they’ll develop new products that help you improve your productivity, sometimes they create sales incentives for their sales people, and sometimes they give the end user a financial incentive to “try” their product.
Another way they encourage you to consider their product is through advertising in business-to-business (b2b) magazines such as TechShop. They’ll use advertising to educate the user about the features and benefits of their product. For them, it’s relatively inexpensive and potentially has the furthest reach. For you, it’s a great way to get more in-depth product knowledge about a tool or piece of shop equipment that you may have been considering for purchase. When we surveyed our readers late last year, you told us you still use b2b magazines for your primary source of information about tools and equipment, prior to making a purchase decision.

Another way manufacturers and distributors reach out to the end user is through a trade show. Sometime during the year, many major tool and equipment distributors will hold at least one large tool show, where they bring in their key sales and training people, and sometimes key customers, for a few days. They use their trade show to provide hands-on training and education at a more grass-roots level. It gives the manufacturers a great opportunity to reach a broader base with their message, and educate the person, on a one-to-one basis, who will be calling on you later this week.

Recently Matco Tools and Cornwell Tools held their annual tool shows. (You can read more about them in the News section of this issue.) I’ve been going to these shows for many years, and one thing that really struck me with these past two shows was the level of excitement the distributors have for the new products they are launching this year.

There are many suppliers in the automotive market who are continuing to come out with new products. These products are designed to help you do your job more efficiently, more effectively. They know if you can do your job faster or better, you’ll put more pay in your pocket — which will ultimately lead to more tool purchases. You can be assured that when the tool distributor stops at your shop, they will be loaded up with one or two new products and new information about how to use your tools better. Based on what I saw at the show, expect to see some exciting new tools in the next few months!

On a separate note, we hope you notice the changes in the design of TechShop. We’ve changed the cover so we can feature bigger photos. We also modified the designs of the featured articles to make it easier to read. A big change is in the Products Preview section. We opened it up so we could provide larger pictures of the products you want to see and read about. In addition to revamping our magazine, we’ve totally redesigned TechShop’s website. Go to www.techshopmag.com to see all the changes for yourself. We’ve added sections for all your favorite topics, including New Products, News and Features, Top 5 Tools section, Buyers Guide and more. The new website is fully searchable, and offers technical articles on virtually every tool topic you can think of. We also have an opinion page. For now, it mostly features my and Larry Carley’s opinions. I hope you’ll check in often and give us your opinion.

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