Been seeing more and more bedliners on the pickup trucks that make their way through your shop? If so, you’ve likely been thinking, “I wonder if I could profit from these?” The answer is yes – provided you do your homework first. by Debbie Briggs
Stop. Before you paint the inside of another truck bed, consider the following. According to research published in November 2001 by marketing consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, the spray-on bedliner segment of the North American light truck accessories aftermarket generated estimated revenues of $110.6 million. That’s a lot of money, and you as a collision repair shop owner could be sharing in these profits.
“Bedliners are probably the first accessory installed on a truck if it hasn’t come from the dealer [or] if it hasn’t come installed by the automaker themselves,” says Frost & Sullivan analyst Jasmine Sachdeva, adding that while the number of drop-in bedliners installed outweighs the spray-on variety, “demand is always there for bedliners of some type.”
Besides, you know it can be difficult to make a re-paint of a truck bed look like it did originally. Giving the customer the option of a sprayed-on liner can help you avoid that process – and a potential redo – and can make you a tidy profit, too.
But is adding spray-on bedliners a viable option for your shop? To help you decide, I recently talked with several spray-on bedliner manufacturers.
First things first. Your techs already know how to spray. They also know how to prep a vehicle – which accounts for most of the work involved in spraying a truck liner.
And you don’t need your highest-level technician to do the spraying. Spraying bedliners can serve as a training ground for a prepper who has an interest in painting.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to you as a shop owner is that you’ve already built a reputation in your area for quality workmanship, so adding spray-on liners is a natural progression or evolution for a shop. Says one manufacturer: “I felt that it belonged in the body shop from the beginning.”
More and more body shops are agreeing – and adding this profit center to their list of services. Despite this, stand-alone accessory shops are still collecting much of the revenue from bedliner installation. In fact, one manufacturer I spoke with said only 10 percent of the companies they currently supply equipment and/or materials to are collision repair shops. So taking that logical step and offering spray-on liners could mean that the next time a customer requests one, you could keep those profits in-house rather than sending the truck down the street.
Just how big can those profits be? Shops are charging between $385 to $475 and up based on the size of the truck bed and the area of the country where they’re located. Most manufacturers say that, after the cost of materials is factored in, a shop can make a 50 percent profit or higher on each liner. Even with the cost of labor factored in, that’s not too shabby for a few hours work.
Add to that the opportunity with many of the systems to upsell the customer by adding a custom color option or a special effect, such as a glow-in-the-dark liner, and the price can go up another $200.
Initial investment is where the manufacturers varied. This is where the “doing your homework” part comes in.
In addition to equipment costs – systems can range anywhere from $8,000 to $30,000 and up, including initial chemical supplies – you also need to ask yourself a few other key questions:
- Do you have the space necessary to spray liners? Most manufacturers recommend a dedicated booth (one where you can leave a bit of a mess). If that’s not feasible, you’ll still need a second spray area, one that has floor-to-ceiling tarps to keep the overspray contained. The operator should also wear protective gear, including breathing equipment.
- Do you want a high-pressure, heated system; a low-pressure, cold system; or one that’s somewhere in between? Equipment requirements vary with each and so does cost.
- Does the system have color-matching capabilities? Bedliners don’t have to be just black or gray anymore. Offering this service gives you the opportunity to upsell, increasing revenue.
- What benefits does the manufacturer offer? Will you become part of a franchise? Will you be an independent dealer, but receive help with advertising costs and have your own territory? Or maybe you’ll just buy the equipment from the manufacturer and that’s as far as the relationship goes.
- Is training included? How extensive is it? You’ll want to be sure your employees are fully educated on how to use the system from the onset to avoid any confusion down the road.
- How quickly will you receive new shipments of bedliner materials? You don’t want to have vehicles lining up while you’re waiting for new supplies.
- Does the company offer technical support? Will they be available when you need them? Unanswered questions will only hold up the completion of work – and possibly lead to unhappy customers when their vehicle isn’t ready when promised.
Not Just for Truck Beds
Is adding spray-on bedliners for you? As with any new piece of equipment or venture, you need to make an informed decision – one that you won’t regret later. Though it takes a little time, doing your homework and researching your options will pay off in the long run.
And if you do decide that a spray-on bedliner business fits your needs, you might want to call it a “spray-on liners” business instead – since spray-on bedliner material isn’t just for bedliners. You can spray horse trailers, utility trailers, box trucks, dump trucks, farm equipment – you fill in the blank. Another big income generator are fleet accounts.
But one manufacturer’s example wins the prize: One of his dealers – a shop in Cincinnati, Ohio – received a visit from a man, who asked the shop to spray a small, wooden box with bedliner material. He said he wanted the box to last forever. Though the shop owner was a bit perplexed, he agreed – but he couldn’t help but ask what was in the box.
“My dad,” the man replied.
Writer Debbie Briggs is managing editor of BodyShop Business.