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May/June 2000

The State of
the Windshield Repair Business

Even while competition mounts, shop owners say it’s a good business to be in.


by Barbara Self

 

Judging by our readers, windshield repair is a true small business, with good potential and the opportunity to control its own destiny. In March, AGRR called a sampling of readers to learn about their business and hear their opinions on the good and the bad in their industry. We found windshield repair shops are typically staffed by less than three employees, with a sales volume under $150,000. For more than 50 percent of the respondents, the business is a one-man shop. A small percentage, less than 20 percent, makes use of part-time employees. But for the majority, windshield repair is a one-man operation, prompting one such owner-installer to say, “It’s hard to do the work, and get the work.”

While some companies with numerous locations report sales of more than $1 million, most shops operate locally with annual sales in a range between $25,000 to $150,000.

1999 was a good year for the windshield repair business; more than 66 percent rated it as better than 1998. Slightly more than half, 53 percent, expect 2000 to be better than 1999. Many respondents see a slowdown in referrals from networks as a leading contributor to decreased sales.

Approximately 35 percent of the responses said dealing with networks and insurance companies is especially troublesome. Of that, 10 percent mentioned Safelite particularly. Some shops have seen their revenue decline as Safelite brings on its own technicians. Networks and insurance companies also come under fire for paperwork and pricing inconsistencies. “Each one has a different format,” complained one shop owner. Another lamented, “There seems to be different pricing every time for the same contract.”

Some shop owners see a lack of awareness on the part of consumers who don’t realize windshields can be repaired rather than replaced. Marketing efforts to get the word out, however, do not seem to be a priority. Most respondents rely on Yellow Page advertising and customer referrals for most of their consumer business. A small percentage expands on local newspaper and television ads. A few are even trying Internet coupons. But since a major percentage of business comes from network and insurance referrals, more than 30 percent said up to 50 percent of their business is from insurance, advertising is not always cost effective. One respondent said, “I’m not sure I’ll break even on the Yellow Page ad.” Another 20 percent said that close to 80 percent of their business comes from fleets and dealerships, and more than 15 percent said almost all their business, 90 percent, comes from a combination of networks and insurance referrals.

Despite such aggravations, the windshield repair business brings personal satisfaction to most of our respondents. For many, windshield repair offers an opportunity for self-employment and the satisfaction of providing a good service to customers.

When asked what the best part of this business is, one shop owner simply said, “Freedom.” Another said, “It’s a clean, stand-up job.”

Barbara Self serves as editorial assistant for AGRR magazine.

AGRR

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