Vantage Point: It's up to you

Jan. 1, 2020
Consumers responded to the retailers' promotions by buying things they actually needed with the exception of automotive repairs and maintenance. And who should we blame for that? Ourselves, of course. Other than a few press releases from some of the

The $600 tax refunds have been issued, and for the most part, have been spent at the big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. No wonder. Wal-Mart offered to cash rebate checks at no charge. Consumers took the offer and then bought what they needed at Wal-Mart. Target and others were just as creative in snagging the rebates.

Consumers responded to the retailers' promotions by buying things they actually needed with the exception of automotive repairs and maintenance. And who should we blame for that? Ourselves, of course. Other than a few press releases from some of the associations, our industry as a whole did little to take advantage of consumers' newfound wealth.

I certainly am not trying to lay this missed opportunity at the feet of our industry associations. None of them singly or collectively can support a major advertising or promotional push �a the big box retailers. But a missed opportunity like this begs the question: if we as an industry can't take advantage of an opportunity like this, is there ever a time we could? Just ask yourself, "When was the last time such an opportunity existed (answer 2001, which we also failed to exploit)? And when will another opportunity like this come around?"

Making this even more painful is that we know consumers started deferring needed maintenance work last year and are continuing on that path. With them scaling back on their driving due to higher gas prices, it is even more likely they will continue to defer maintenance.

What about the industry's Be Car Care Aware program? Can't it help encourage consumers to maintain and repair their vehicles? Sure it can, and it has. However, at the end of the day, it is asking too much for a public relations program alone to help drive customers into the bays.

What is truly needed is a national ongoing advertising campaign. Such a campaign would have to be funded by either the industry's most affluent businesses and/or by the thousands of independent shops around the country. Neither is going to happen.

So, where does that leave us? With each of you. You basically have to go after business as if you're not going to get any help from anyone else.

Perhaps some of you ran promotions to try to get your fair share of the consumer tax rebates. My brief and unscientific search turned up nothing to support that action. More than likely, most shop owners thought it was beyond them to do so. In essence, it just takes a little foresight. For example, shortly after the rebates were announced, the owners of a Northeast Ohio window company decided to offer a deal to match rebates up to $600 for those who bought 10 or more windows. Not all that creative, but effective enough to take business from competitors.

OK, if you didn't aggressively go after the rebate dollars, all is not lost. As I am sure you realize, you are in a good position to help your customers get better gas mileage. That is, if you let them know that.

Let's face it, business is slow right now. It can only get slower if you don't promote your shop. I hope you don't wait to see if I'm right.

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