Color Me Successful

Dec 3, 2009

Carpet is one of the areas on any vehicle that sees some serious abuse. Dirty feet track grime and grunge on it, day in and day out. Coffee, milkshakes and worse gets spilled on it. Drivers may hit it with a vacuum from time to time, but who deep-cleans their carpets very often?

This is where you can come in.

Whether you offer your services to the public through a retail store or service dealership and fleet clients, carpet restoration is an easy process that can add valuable profits to your business.

Not only is it a quick, simple procedure to perform, but it will also meld nicely with your other reconditioning services. Dealerships will love to present used cars with clean, bright interiors, and retail customers will appreciate a new-looking carpet to complement the work you’ve already done to their vehicle’s glass, bumper, seats or anything else.

The Process

Repairing rips and worn areas, and dyeing or painting the carpet fibers are two main tasks at hand. Prep work is important-as it is with nearly any process in the auto reconditioning field.

“The coating is only as good as what you put it on,” says Jim Hussey, product manager for SEM Products, Charlotte, N.C. “If you put it on a grimy carpet, it won’t stick as well.”

First, if there are bare spots from a driver’s heel, or rips or cigarette burns, the fibers need to be repaired. Then it’s time to clean the carpet. Manufacturers recommend a thorough shampooing, and then using a degreaser or solvent if needed. Several types of coloring products are available, including both aerosol and water-based dyes or paint. Some require heat.

Once the dye or coating is applied, it’s worked into the fibers with a brush and allowed to dry. This gives a tech the chance to perform other services during the time the carpet is drying.

“If you’re doing an entire carpet, it only takes about 45 minutes, depending on how thorough you are with taping off,” says Greg Shaw, owner of New Image, Huntersville, N.C.

The Benefits

The investments for what’s needed to begin reconditioning carpets are pretty low, manufacturers say, especially when compared with the potential for profit. Techs can charge anywhere from $25 to more than $100 per job.

“To do touch-ups or a complete color change they can charge anywhere from $20 to $120,”says John Bracker, president, New Life Nationwide, New Smyrna Beach, Fla. “The place they would usually change colors is in a high-end car like a Mercedes, and then they can charge quite a bit, because new carpets would probably be well over $1,000-but that’s an unusual thing to do. Normally $25 to $100 will cover repairing the carpet, re-dyeing some areas to original and putting mats down.”

The cost of materials ranges widely depending on the system a technician uses. Shaw recommends buying in bulk for lower prices.

It’s not hard to get started doing carpet restoration. Training, while recommended, is fairly simple.

“Typically the training required for carpets is not that much, because it’s not rocket science,” says Bracker. “We will have a two-day [reconditioning] seminar in June, and during that we will probably spend 30 minutes on carpet repair-that’s all it really takes. Someone can learn how to do it in an hour, and then it’s just a matter of doing it. There’s not a high degree of skill to it; anyone in a detail shop can do it.”

Most carpet product manufacturers offer training classes, but if attending a training class or seminar isn’t possible, there are other methods, including videos.

“Most people opt for the DVD or a class. Both cover the same information but the DVD is less expensive,” says Darrell Wolf of Pro Dyes, Zeeland, N.D. “You don’t have to fly to a class. A lot of companies offer it or 90 percent of the time you can actually walk through it with the technical help from your dye manufacturer.”

The Customers

So it’s easy and it’s inexpensive. Who will an auto reconditioner sell carpet restoration to? Well, there are two answers. Dealerships are going to be the most interested, manufacturers say.

“A lot of the guys doing this are mobile techs going from car lot to car lot and working on used cars, making them nice to sell,” says Brian Joyner, SEM marketing manager. “If you’ve got carpet in there and it’s faded or looks bad, use this process to make it look new again and increase the resale value of the car. It adds versatility. It’s one more thing they can do, and it’s simple.”

With the term used car being shunned these days in favor of pre-owned, technicians can sell dealerships on the fact that a stained carpet is going to give a vehicle a very-much used appearance.

“We’ve found that dealerships are huge for us,” says Shaw. “They generally want to make used cars look as good as possible, since used is a bad word in the industry nowadays-you’re supposed to call them pre-owned. Dealerships generally want to get everything fixed. They have a need for it.”

The Tricky Part

The tricky part with carpet restoration is that it’s not a widely known process. This is more of a hurdle to the technicians offering reconditioning services to the public than it is for those with dealership or fleet customers.

“I just don’t know that many people are aware of it,” says Shaw. “A lot of people come to me daily and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know you can do this stuff,’ about carpet dyeing and also leather repair and cigarette burns.”

And while retail customers are more likely to balk at a service they may not perceive as necessary, there are some niches who may love it. Classic car owners who want to keep their original carpets may jump at the chance to revive original floor coverings instead of paying premiums for new-old stock or reproductions.

“Generally, used car owners and those with older cars are interested,” says Joyner. “With new cars, you don’t need to restore carpet. Or, if you’re talking to a restoration guy who is putting in old carpet-typically when people do carpet, they’re doing the rest of the interior as part of a bigger restoration project.”

Getting the word out to the general public is what’s going to really drive retail sales, say manufacturers. From flyers to business cards to carpet samples, showing customers what you can do for their faded and stained flooring is going to be the most effective marketing tool.

“It’s easy to sell,” says Wolf. “What you do is show the customer. First impressions are everything; open a car door and [the carpet] is the first thing people notice.”

So how do you get the word out to those customers? To lure in retail clients, some manufacturers recommend flyers and business cards letting folks know you can refresh faded or stained carpets. Traditional advertising also holds value, from signs to ads in newspapers and phone books.

“In my local market, what I’ve really wanted to gear myself toward is just flyer-ing,” says New Image’s Shaw. “I’m trying to put small advertisements up, and generate the common guy to give me a call for carpet restoration for his home furnishings, boat or his car. You have to spend the money to get yourself out there. Flyer-ing and business cards are going to be the way to go with that.”

Dealer programs offer profit opportunities as well and are easier to attract, says New Life’s Bracker.

“The best technique is to go walk the lot and find a carpet that needs work. Offer to do a sample. A lot of times you don’t even have to offer to do that-¦just say, ‘That carpet looks pretty bad, and for this much money I can fix it up and put protective mats on it.'”