Dec. 4, 2020—A day after meeting with franchisees as part of the virtual 2020 Maaco Convention, company leaders met with members of the automotive press via Zoom.
The state of Maaco is good, said its president, Chris Dawson, who took the position in January. He said that while other businesses held back their marketing dollars in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maaco pushed its retail side and found success.
"While a lot of people were backpedaling through the pandemic, we went with a completely different approach," he said.
While early 2020 was still off, Michael Macaluso, executive vice president for Driven Brands and its group director for paint, collision, and glass, said the third quarter of 2020 was "nothing short of tremendous."
Dawson said that as a brand, Maaco, in the second half of 2020, had surpassed its numbers for the same time period in 2019.
While the decline in miles driven during the pandemic is a cause for concern, as is the slowing purchasing of new cars, Dawson said people still want their vehicles to look nice—Maaco saw a "massive increase" in the sales of paint jobs in 2020.
He credited some of that growth to Maaco's new Online Estimating Tool.
"[It] absolutely changed our business in 2020," Dawson said, helping the company to reach "a whole new customer base" outside the brand's normal demographics. The new customers were women and folks with smaller household incomes.
On the prospects of private equity making moves into Maaco's retail sector of the collision repair and paint industry, Macaluso said it's possible, though he would expect in the nearer term for investors to stay focused on the DRP collision repair space.
Dawson was cagey with figures when it came to Maaco's growth plans for 2021, though he was clear that the company is looking forward to the new year.
"Being deemed an essential business was the best thing that could have happened to us," he said, pointing out that potential franchisees were scared away from business opportunities in other industries because of the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.
With the company coming up to its 50th anniversary and a list of willing parties to take over franchises from franchisees looking to retire in the near term, said Dawson, 'We're actually gaining more interest than we've ever had."
Where there was extra down time brought on by COVID-19, Dawson said, franchisees shored up signage and sales processes, and pushed training, such as I-CAR classes. He noted Maaco now boasts more than 200 locations that are Gold Class; more than 100 that are Platinum Class; and some 20-plus that are Diamond Class.
He said in the early days of the pandemic, Maaco corporate put on a 12-week webinar series that allowed franchisees to get on the same page with respect to pandemic protocols, such as contactless sales processes.