What kind of trends are you seeing in the marketplace?
We're seeing people holding onto their vehicles longer and repairing them rather than trading them in. As far as reacting to them, we're continuing to give them great service, make sure we keep them safe on the road. With the increase in travel occurring, we hope to capitalize on that for the rest of the year. …
Our business only fell off the last two weeks of March and April (2020). May really picked back up, and I don't want to say got back to normal by any means, but very close. That's why we say the trends we see, people holding on to their vehicles, they're wanting to go on trips, they're wanting to spend money on their vehicles, they're wanting to spend money on tires, for us it's been very beneficial.
What are some of the procedures/changes your company implemented to tackle the challenges of the pandemic? Which, if any, do you expect to keep going forward?
We had a lot of these things implemented before. What I would say is we saw more people utilizing them than they were before. We've always had touchless drop-off or night drops where someone schedules an appointment with us, fills out a form and drops it in the night drop and then we get their keys.
Then we've always had a text-to-pay option. We send them a text when the vehicle is done, they pay for the vehicle, we lock the keys in their vehicle. So both of those were being utilized more.
We've always been wiping down vehicles using steering wheel coverings, seat covers, using floor mats and things like that in these vehicles, which in this pandemic was a very hot topic, making sure that these vehicles are sanitized and cleaned and taken care of and touchless delivery and the payment option being a text-to-pay as a payment option. These things we all had in place. Those are some of the main things we saw people utilizing more during the pandemic.
We used to be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. We shortened those hours. We're now 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Obviously that has to do with being able to staff those locations and give the service that we expect. And that is one area we do not see going back. Our business has held, the trend has held as far as us being able to do the same amount of business with a shorter time period. Obviously we can maintain that with a few less people as well.
What do you see as your biggest challenge for the second half of the year?
I think this is industrywide: People aren't learning the trades and people are by far our biggest challenge. The technicians, the people that want to come in and do this work is our biggest challenge. …
We're doing what we can as far as we're focused on training our associates, promoting from within from our techs and our tire techs.
We have numerous training options from Hunter Engineering and alignment specialist training, training we've developed with Federal-Mogul and Garage Gurus, the Drive program that takes our guys from a basic tech to most advanced technicians, from vehicle maintenance all the way to diagnostic jobs.
And then for our tire techs, we're doing the TIA training. We're doing a program we partnered with NAPA called the BAT (Build A Tech) program, where we take those tire technicians that we see have potential and move them to the next level so they have a career path to move up.
That's how we're trying to entice these guys in the trades: 'Hey, come work for us. We have these training programs. We can give you a career path.' And that's how we're trying to meet that challenge.
We're doing the same thing with our sales team and management. … When they come on board, there is an eight-week training where we go over all the ins and outs of Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers and how to deal with customer issues, how to deal with adjustments, different sales practices, different manufacturer processes. Just giving them every piece of information we can to help them succeed in their career and tell them that Dobbs is the right place to work is how we're trying to really hit that challenge head on.
In the course of the last six to eight weeks we've really hired a number of quality sales associates, guys coming from other people in our industry, not even from our state or in our market, from outside our market coming to get that training, to have that career path.
We're starting to see that pay off for the sales side of it. Technicians are a little bit more difficult because everybody is holding on to these guys with everything they can.
How did your sales in 2020 compare with 2019?
We were down in sales and service about 6%; in tires we were down about 10%. It was that six- to eight-week period that hit us. With that being said, because of the changes we made, we still ended up in a very profitable position at the end of the year.
What are your expectations for this year's sales?
Right now through April 2021 versus 2019, we're seeing a solid 10% increase in sales, a solid 10% increase in service and really across the board a solid 10% increase in tires as well.
I believe we'll end up in the $115 million mark by the end of the year. That would be a pretty solid safe bet for us in sales.