As many of you may have already seen, your profits are likely less than the previous years because of our industry’s skyrocketing costs. We see it in the filters that are screwed onto the car, in the cost of our oil purchases, shipping, labor costs and more. Some of you reading this may even be drowning at this point waiting for the next shoe to drop. Unfortunately, our only reality is to ask, “What’s next?”
Honestly, the biggest cost that you may have already seen is your lifeblood. The oil. What has changed? Costs are rising and some oils are still not available on the market. How is this possible? Wait, there are oil companies out there today projecting record quarter profits? What about me?
These are all valid questions that you may ask yourself when dealing with your rising fluid costs. But what can you do? Well, if you are an independent, you can shop around for the best price. There are a number of off-brands of oil that you can procure for discounted oil changes or just to fill a need in your shop. Many of these are blended in the same plants that the name brand oils are created. Shop around and see what is available to you. If you are contracted or franchised, you may not be able to get the same breathing room as your competitor. You are at the mercy of the oil company. For you, there is still a glimmer of hope in some lubrication savings. Look for off-brand gear lubes or antifreeze. Maybe even read over that contract to see what percentage of non-branded oil you can purchase and take it to the limit. The oil prices, like our gas prices, are not going to drop anytime soon, so it's time for us to pivot.
Here comes the next new hurdle for you to overcome: shipping costs. Due to Covid and other outside issues, shipping costs have risen across every industry. Do you notice your freight costs going up a bit where it previously was not? That is because there are not enough drivers, workers and space to keep the line moving. Do not even add in the driver strikes, roadway blockages and ships sitting off the coast of California and it is hard enough getting supply as it is.
Remember just a year ago when we were all scrambling to find oil filters due to manufacturing shortages? Now that we have that in order, you are just going to have to expect to now pay more to get it. We fixed one hole, and another began. Sometimes, as an operator, it feels as if the dam is overflowing on you trying to hold it together.
Labor has risen in the last two years as we see more states raising the minimum wage. Given the circumstances, I think that some bump was needed as some have not been in a decade. However, some went a little overboard. It is classic inflation. When something costs more to produce, the cost of said product will rise accordingly. So when it costs us more to make the product in manpower, costs us more to ship to locations, we have to in turn raise prices ourselves. How many of you reading this have done at least one, if not multiple, price changes in the last few months? So now that the costs are higher to get said service or product, did anyone’s way of life get better? To top that off, if your profits are dwindling, then neither has your way of life.
There is still some sunlight on the other side. There are more cars on the road now. There are family vacations and commuting to work. This means that you are going to start to get busier and busier. This will only help right the ship that is the quick lube industry. We have more popping up across the map, so there is a need. As we start to get more and more people back to work, the industries that have had to raise prices will level off. This is all good for us.
So the original question was, “What’s next?”
Well, hopefully it will be your car counts returning, adding a new service or changing the way that you go to business to be lean and mean. In all seriousness, how you adapt to the changing market could be your line to cross. Perhaps the better question is, “What’s next for us to create a new future?”