Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tool & Equipment Trends - According to our Readers

A couple of weeks ago I reported on the "lifestyle" of today's technicians. Today, I can share the results of our survey on Tools and Equipment. These results reflect the shop owner's experience, not the technician. I have to apologize ahead of time for the manner in which I'm sharing this info - it was a little tough to pull into a cohesive format.

We surveyed the readers of our TechGroup magazines: Underhood Service, Import Car, and Brake & Front End in order to collect up-to-date information on the types of tools and equipment found in independent repair shops. This is another important distinction to make - this information all comes from independent repair shops - no dealerships. We also measured the importance of various attributes affecting tool purchases and the sources of information that shop owners use when they make their purchasing decisions.

Surveys were mailed in September, 2008, and the responses were compiled in October. Once again, I'm just going to share the highlights. A complete copy of the survey results can be made available on request. Of course, I can never resist editorializing as I go....

  • 86% of our respondents were either the owner or partner, 12% were managers
  • 81.4% have complete purchasing authority on new auto service equipment, 12.2% share the authority with others
  • Average dollar value of all personal tools used professionally is $65,300
  • Average amount spent on tools each month is $455
We asked, "where do you receive the MOST information on new tools?". 73% said from Trade magazines. The next largest percentage was 17% from mobile distributors. Websites only scored a 2%, and the manufacturers' website scored 0%. I found that VERY interesting. On one hand, good for me because it means our readers still find quite a bit of value in our magazines, and (hopefully) so do our advertisers because their message is being sought out in trade magazines. On the other hand, possibly bad for the manufacturer who has invested quite a bit of $$ in their website, and they may or may not be getting a good return on their investment. You decide.

What makes a technician or shop owner buy a tool? Do you think it's brand, where it's made, price?

According to our readers, the BRAND drives their decision most often. Our readers specify a particular brand frequently or always 73% of the time. If they don't specify, it's because 77% know the brand the vendor will supply.

What helps drive a tool-buying decision? Number one answer is warranty, followed by brand, then availability.

When asked what the 3 most important purchase factors were after brand, 92% chose quality, followed by warranty and then competitive pricing.

Where do they buy their tools & equipment?
57% of their purchases are made from mobile distributors, 14% are purchased from tool & equipment WDs, and the other 29% is dispersed amongst retailers, full-line WD, online, direct from the mfg, and from dealerships.

Have their purchasing habits changed? For a few - yes. 17% have decreased their purchases from the mobiles. While 33% have increased their purchases on-line. (I would still guess that on-line purchase amount is small compared to the rest of their purchases, but can't substantiate my gut feel.)

Specific Product info
  • Battery chargers, compressor, tool box/cart - in 90% or more of the shops
  • Pneumatic tools, test equipment, shop lights - in 82% - 86% of the shops
  • Lifts, specialty hand tools, specialty sockets/wrenches and diagnostic tools are in 79% of the shops surveyed
  • 23% had hybrid specialty tools and just
  • 19% had flash reprogrammers

And the answer to my favorite question, "Would you find a Buyers Guide of Tools and Equipment useful? 87% said yes, and most said they would hold onto it for 6 months or more. Music to my ears, because we're getting ready to go to press with our 2nd annual Buyer's Guide early next month. And we're the only publisher in the industry that has a printed (as well as on-line) version. After all, our customers are still finding most of their product information from the printed page!

One last comment about this segment of our readers, they reported that they typically spend 46% of their time diagnosing and repairing vehicles. Even though they own multi-bay shops, and they employ 2 or more technicians, they are still spending an incredible amount of time IN the business, versus working ON their business. Only 8% of their time is spent meeting with suppliers. If you are a supplier to this market, you need to understand that as you go forward in your marketing plan. They see a supplier less than 40 minutes/day - and that "supplier" could be a sales rep, a mobile distributor, or a factory person. Ask yourself this question, When you are not in front of them, what have you done to make them remember you?

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