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With rising competition and declining profits, many collision-repair shops are adding profit centers to boost their sales.
Connie & Sons, Inc., Rhino Linings in
Bismarck, N.D., is no exception. Though the shop was originally
a collision-repair facility, times have changed. These day, it
not only does repairs, custom painting and frame straightening,
but it’s turned its bedliner profit center into a big part
of the business.
"What started out to be a little extra
cash flow is becoming the main portion of the business, and autobody
repair is becoming secondary," says Connie & Sons owner
The increasing number of shops, declining
profits and rising insurance involvement is what got Scholl thinking
about a Rhino Linings bedliner dealership.
"We originally started it to fill in
the slow times, so to speak," says Scholl. "We didn’t
anticipate getting as many liners as we have."
With the only liner competition in Jamestown,
N.D. – 100 miles away – it’s not hard to see why. Since starting
the bedliner dealership in January 1994, Connie & Sons has
seen a steady rise in business – from one job a week during the
first year to seven to 15 jobs a week now. Along with the big
increase in volume, the shop has seen a big increase in profits.
Today, 30 percent of the shop’s profits come from liner-application
A Sound Investment
As the saying goes, you have to spend a little
money to make a little money. And Scholl incurred his fair share
of start-up costs to get the bedliner dealership going.
"I went a little more elite than many
bedliner dealers do," says Scholl, who, after buying the
necessary liner-application equipment and supplies, also purchased
a booth in which he can spray three applications at once. Such
outfitting allows the shop to keep the volume of liners moving
smoothly – jobs are in and out in one day – and keeps the quality
of those jobs up.
"The weather changes so much between
hot- and cold-temperature extremes – which can affect the application
of liners the same way it affects the application of paint – that
I wanted to be set up the same way on the bedliners that I was
Like many other shop owners, Scholl has found
that once you start spending money, it’s hard to stop. To kick
off the new bedliner dealership, he spent money on marketing and
local newspaper, television and radio ads. Because the distribution
points for Rhino Linings’ bedliner material are on the West Coast
and the temperature of the material being transported can’t fall
below 70 degrees F, Scholl also must pay for heated trucks to
deliver his orders from San Diego, Calif., to Bismarck during
the winter months.
Along with the start-up and subsequent monetary
investments, Scholl has invested time in the dealership. He and
his brother/partner, Darrel, flew to San Diego last year to attend
a five-day seminar on application, marketing and sales. After
getting the booth and mix room set up in their shop, Scholl and
his brother spent another four days training on site with a Rhino
Linings representative and two other shop employees who would
soon be applying the liners.
With only one application system in the shop
and an increasing number of customers, Scholl is looking to purchase
more spray-on equipment in the upcoming year.
In the next two years, he’s looking to pull
away from the collision-repair side of the shop and concentrate
on the bedliner dealership.
"We’ve been in the autobody-repair business
for 33 years," Scholl says, "and I really enjoy working
on cars. But if you check around, you’ll see the profits just
aren’t there. And with the new technology that’s required in training
and equipment, a lack of profits makes it very tough to make it."
Though bedliners will become Connie &
Sons main focus, body work won’t be eliminated. Looking to the
future, Scholl sees a turn around with insurance involvement in
"I see a point, probably in the next
five or seven years, when qualified technicians will be in demand
by the insurance industry in order to put the cars back on the
roads," he says. "At that time, I see the work coming
back, which is why we won’t eliminate the body work."
Operating in a town with 65,000 people and
41 competing shops, Scholl knows you need a heck of a lot of accidents
to come up with a decent profit margin – even if insurance involvement
does take a turn. But with the bedliner business booming,
the shop won’t need to worry about repair work, as long as the
unlined beds keep rolling in.
Writer Melissa Green is managing editor of
A Million and One Uses
Though lining seven to 15 beds each week keeps
the techs at Connie & Sons busy, there’s always time to squeeze
in another job or two when it means added profits. But Scholl
and his techs have looked farther than just the shop parking lot
for more jobs. In fact, they’ve looked toward the fire department’s
water-holding tanks, local sewage-holding tanks and a few pool-filtration
"[The pool-filtration tanks] we did in
hot pink," says Scholl. "They wanted something bright
so they wouldn’t have to drain [the tanks] to see how the pumps
and filters were working. It worked out pretty good for them,
and it didn’t look as bad as I thought it might."
Pick a Color, Any Color
With the thousands of paint colors adorning vehicles today, you
might wonder just how Scholl and his techs get the bedliner material
to match. After all, mixing bedliner material isn’t like mixing
paint – or is it?
"It’s sort of like paint mixing," says Scholl. "You
have the resin, which is a cream color, and then you have your
dyes. You mix and match pretty much like paint."
Though there are a couple hundred colors – formulated in a color-code
book just like paint – available for mixing, Scholl says the most
popular color for bedliners sprayed in his shop is gray.
The popularity of such a color doesn’t necessarily mean Bismarck
streets are filled with gray trucks. It may simply mean there
are a lot of dollar-conscious consumers – when it comes to bedliners,
price is dependent upon the color chosen. Dark colors don’t require
a UV coat, which is an additional cost.