There is no doubt the radiator industry has undergone a lot of change in the last twenty years. In the eighties and nineties we existed in a closed industry, there were a handful of local manufacturers who made cores for the radiator industry and that was it, end of story, no other alternatives. Acid baths, recoring, tinning tanks, torches burning all day, rebuilding header plates, cutting out tubes and sectioning cores were all part of life as a radiator repairer. Life was good, work was everywhere. In the eighties you didn’t need to do much more than put up a shingle and you were in business. Most shops were dirty, really dirty, radiator repairers were generally not very customer focused, customers just got in the way of the next clean out or tube to header repair! In the nineties there were some significant changes with the introduction of plastic alloy but add a plastic jig and you were good to go, work was still everywhere and it was still finding its own way through the door. It was almost a sport to see how much you could charge for a stone hole repair!
Fast forward to the radiator industry today and it is clear to see that we operate in a very different environment. The world is a much smaller place thanks to globalisation, the world wide web and the opening up of manufacturing in China, a good example of the level of change is to see what happens when you type ‘radiator manufacturer’ into a search engine! Radiators are readily available, it seems they are everywhere, the end result is the old radiator industry is gone forever.
Why change? Because we will never get back to the ‘old days’, to hold back this amount of change is like trying to hold back the tide. Those who persist looking to the past waste a lot of time and energy doing so, business that look back go backwards. The industry has changed but it is far from dead. Shops need to actively maximise their potential in order to be successful in this changing environment. Think big, use your specialist skills to your benefit, market your business, identify potential business and drag it into your shop. There is too much competition and too many options from outside the industry to sit back and wait for the jobs to walk in like they used to.
In the halcyon days every second repairer was the self proclaimed ‘best repairer in the country’, repairers were extremely proud of their skills and rightfully so, now is not the time for repairers to sit back in silence. Radiator repairers need to go back to blowing their own trumpets, let everyone know you are best qualified to provide them with the solution. Provide alternatives to your current customers such as repairing or recoring, find new customers, contact old customers who have moved away. You know more about radiators than any of the small time non radiator specialist importers. How often have you laughed at catalogues and brochures from ‘new players’ that show radiators pictured upside down, do these competitors really know radiators? Do they have your knowledge? No they don’t, they’re not in the same league but they are probably blowing their trumpet louder than you are. Give customers a compelling reason to deal with you. Pick your targets and go the extra mile to win the customer over. With over 15 million registered vehicles on our roads there is a lot of business out there.
The radiator industry isn’t dead but the old days are gone. On a positive note, even with the current level of competition there are radiator businesses around the country doing well. There are a number of newer suppliers to the industry and some of these companies are helping the more progressive radiator businesses achieve their success. The shops doing well generally view change as an opportunity, they make their own mind up about what is best for their business.
It’s great to hang onto nostalgia but don’t get stuck in the past - you might be surprised how far this will take you.
Michael is employed by Ashdown-Ingram as a Business Development Manager, he has worked in and around the radiator industry for over 20 years with some of his early days spent repairing radiators.
Ashdown-Ingram and Acton Distribution provide a range of radiator assemblies and associated parts to the radiator industry. They specialise in market leading brands from companies such as Denso, Behr-Hella, Calsonic, ADR and Redback Radiators.