What did you glean from talking to people on the show?
We could see that levels of engagement were very high, those who attended the Collision Repair Expo were actively interested in engaging with new products and technologies this year. The number of attendees was lower than normal (which we expected), but the quality of those visitors was at an all time high – body shop owners came knowing they could ‘touch and feel’ the product and talk to someone who knows the product. For me, on a personal note, the Collision Repair Expo really showcased the resilience and strength of our industry.
Was there any really hot product from the show?
There was a lot of interest in the whole range of products we were exhibiting at the Collision Repair Expo and the Wieländer+Schill Arena was a showstopper. It is essentially a mixed material bay which is separated from the surrounding area by a specially coated welding protection curtain.
There was also a lot of interest in Spanesi’s Italian Michelangelo spray booth, which features an impressive stainless steel fascia and an all-new front gate with glass windows – a true work of art.
Our line of polishing juices was also a fan favorite, and this year there was a lot of interest in both the new Endurance putty and the N-Cut compound. We are pleased with the response to these products – SAPE has provided new and innovative products. at the show, and I think we’ve had a lot of engagement across the lineup.
The Wielander & Schill mixed material room is great, looks like an operating room, but it’s a big investment – were the people who expressed interest in it mainly your high-profile repairers?
There are so many words that can be used to describe Wieländer+Schill Arena Workbay; state-of-the-art, state-of-the-art, avant-garde are just a few, but this really is a truly innovative product. Initial interest came from high-profile repairers, but I think there is room for discussion with the wider collision repair community. This product was originally designed in partnership with the Volkswagen Group and a study was carried out on its effectiveness. So it’s not only designed to make the space safer to deal with mixed materials, but also more efficient, so you can fix cars easier and faster. There are so many features, air is on hand everywhere in the room, access to electricity in the room (all phases and all different types), a cart that moves around the room, so that your work procedures are close and, above all, very bright lighting.
That’s what I mean, it’s like an operating room
Exactly right, it shares the same awesome features. There is the safety aspect, the specially coated welding protection curtains are a real game-changer and offer an unrivaled level of safety, and so important in today’s body shop. In addition to being modular, it is very adaptable, so if we had a difficult space to work with, we have the option of hooking the corners of the roof if there is a beam in the way. While initial interest came from the high end of the city, we are starting to get inquiries from the wider collision market – the benefits are truly enormous across the board.
Obviously, Wielander & Schill are German and then you have your Italian Spanesi equipment and you have your French Celette benches. How did you manage to get the equipment in?
Almost every industry experiences supply chain issues, and ours is no exception. The cost of importing anything is now astronomical, we have seen a big increase in freight costs and lead times have lengthened dramatically. In response, we are taking steps to mitigate order delays for our global brands. We have increased inventory on our shelves, our purchasing teams are working in close consultation with suppliers, our supply chain and transit channels. We do our best to stay one step ahead in a disruptive world.
Our supply chain is an important part of our business model and over time has become one of our competitive advantages. We stock 95% of the items we put on the market locally, so if you want a Spanesi bench, we have one here ready for delivery. If you want a Wielander & Schill dust or fume extractor, we have them in stock.
There are obvious exceptions to the rule, things like a spray booth obviously have to be specially ordered as they are custom built to suit the area, but most things we have in stock. If a customer wants it and needs it, we have it. And this is the business model that we continue to this day, even with the current impacts on our supply chain.
Throughout the pandemic, have you seen people invest in upgrading their workshops?
We have seen the industry continue to grow thanks to Covid. There have been some periods of the pandemic that have been scarier than others, it was certainly quiet with all the lockdowns, but we’ve seen throughout the pandemic that people continue to invest in new equipment and look for ways to use the downtime to improve their bodybuilder. It’s amazing how resilient our industry has been during the pandemic.
So, are there any other trends you see in the market? Obviously, there is an increase in MSOs. You probably know who opens a new store before everyone else in the country.
We are always trying to see where new opportunities lie and how best to respond to a changing market. There is a lot of new business going on in the collision repair landscape. Yes, MSOs are growing, but there are also people opening up new mom and dad shops, and young people starting out with small businesses, whether collision or bespoke. So there is always growth in the industry, and that’s a real positive!
I think there are a lot of generational changes in the industry. I mean there are a lot of people still working in the industry who are reaching retirement age. We are now seeing more and more younger faces popping up, moving, shaking and doing a whole lot more.
Anyway, SAPE will always be there to help you when opening new stores, not only with paint, consumables and equipment, but also with general advice, we are above all a company human!
With so many fast-drying paint products, have you seen a big increase in UV-curable products?
UV curing is growing by leaps and bounds as the industry learns more about its benefits. We continue to see a lot of UV absorption in the primary space and people are doing bigger and bigger repairs. I think UV primer in particular will be an area of growth in the industry, simply because of the speed and build you can create with a UV primer.
There are still some initial teething issues. I don’t think it’s quite there yet – but when they can strike the balance between UV stabilization and UV curing it will be a game changer for the industry.
What do you think will be the main market driver in the future?
I think the key word for 2022/23 is adaptability. Since nothing in today’s world ever stays the same for very long, we work very hard to ensure that we can continue to supply our products; inventory levels are good; and our distribution network can maintain delivery services.
Bodybuilders will also have to adapt to a world with supply chain challenges. A perfect example is sealant shortages, there may be times when stocks are low so companies will need to adapt and perhaps switch to another brand until shortages are overcome. You just need to be adaptable and make sure you can come up with slightly different processes to ensure you’re able to continue fixing cars – the ones that are easily adaptable will be successful this year. We have managed to supply our customers from other fillers that we have purchased. Who knows what the next product challenge will be?
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