Publisher's Perspective: How’s Business?
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Publisher’s Perspective: How’s Business?

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There are some very strong signs that business will be good in 2004. Optimism among repair shop owners is as high as it’s ever been during the three years that we’ve been tracking this data.

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During the first week of January, we faxed a survey to 3,000 automotive service and repair shop owners across the country to gauge their business performance for the fourth quarter of 2003. The following charts summarize the pertinent data and allow you to compare your shop’s figures to this nationally representative sample.

The fourth quarter 2003 results were decent compared to the fourth quarter of 2002. Thirty-five percent of repair shop owners reported revenue to be above the levels of 2002, 28% said business was flat and 27% reported a decrease. These numbers may not look great, but they’re not too bad, considering that the fourth quarter of 2002 was a strong quarter.

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The good news is that shop owners are optimistic about 2004. Looking toward the first quarter of 2004, 54% feel it will be better than the fourth quarter of 2003. This high a score has not been experienced in the past seven quarters.

Another positive sign that repair activity is increasing in the bays comes from the number of shops looking to hire technicians.

As you can see, this metric had been on a steady decline since the first quarter of 2002. The recent data shows a nine point jump in one quarter to the 40% level. To meet increased service demand, many businesses will simply extend overtime hours until the point is reached where they’re sure there is enough work to keep a new employee busy full time. It appears that point has been reached.

The last indicator of a good 2004 comes from the answers to this question:

This question is asked each quarter throughout the year to gauge the level of optimism for a full year. Seventy-two percent of shop owners feel business will be better in 2004 compared to 2003. Only 5% feel business will be worse. Over time, this survey has indicated both weak and mixed results, but never has it shown such a positive sign that business is expected to be so strong in the coming year.

Here’s to a solid 2004.

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