Today we're interviewing Lucy Chapman, Director of Marketing and Steve Dunn, Founder, of Carsmetics. Carsmetics is a growing organization of non-traditional shops setup as outpatient clinics for body shops and dealerships. Their customer service orientation has helped Carsmetics to continue expanding in a shrinking market.
Jen: What are some of the benefits of being an MSO (multiple shop operator)? Does the additional volume provide benefits?
Lucy/Steve:Being an MSO allows you to spread overhead expenses such as advertising and management salaries over several stores, and suppliers often give volume discounts on materials. These savings can be passed on to your customers. Also, advertising is more effective when you are able to offer customers multiple locations for obtaining your services.
The Carsmetics brand and concept focuses on providing customer great convenience by saving them time and money. We have made it easy to service customers all over the State of Florida with careful location selection. By providing one day repairs in clean, accessible, A-rated retail locations, word has spread because people tell their friends and family about our good work. Again, by having multiple shops, we are able to leverage costs on parts, supplies and even labor and pass the saving on to the consumer
Jen: When you are planning to expand, what are the criteria you use to determine where your new locations will be? What are your current expansion plans?
Lucy/Steve: We plan to expand via company-owned stores in FL and with franchised locations elsewhere. FL expansion really depends on the robustness of the economy! Since much of our business comes directly from vehicle owners, we look for heavily populated areas where people tend to have more disposable income to spend on their vehicles.
Beyond Florida, we currently have two locations in Orange County CA, and plan to expand into Atlanta and up the East Coast into 2009.
Jen: Was the company always intended to be an MSO or did this happen as the business evolved?
Lucy/Steve: We planned on Carsmetics being an MSO from the beginning. We opened our first shop at a busy intersection in Clearwater, Florida in 1997 and within five years had 6 thriving shops between Tampa Bay and Orlando. We now have 15 locations in Florida, 2 in California.
Jen: How do you see the auto repair industry evolving in the future? Do you see a move toward MSOs in the marketplace in place of the individually owned shops that are now prevalent?
Lucy/Steve: Many types of businesses have evolved from single locations to MSO’s in the past few decades – think grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, etc.
It seems that the body shop industry is headed in the same direction. Carsmetics is open to collaborating with individual shop owners to bring them on board. Carsmetics has the reputation and resources to help single shop owners grow to the next level which ultimately provides more consistent service to the consumer.