Line It Right

Dec 3, 2009

Sprayed-in bedliners hit the market relatively recently, but they’ve become an established must-have accessory for many truck owners. The appeal of bedliners is universal, whether a driver uses the vehicle for hard work or as a daily driver.

If you don’t already offer the coating to your pickup-driving customers, you may consider adding it to your product mix. Bedliner manufacturers say that drivers who opt for a sprayed-in bedliner often also want running board or steps, tonneau covers or caps, brush guards or bumpers. Creating a package with work or styling accessories and a bedliner could be an attractive setup for retail and dealership customers alike.

If you already sell sprayed-in bedliners, consider the broader capabilities of the product. The applications for a tough, non-slip coating are limitless: Off-road vehicles, boats, trailers and RVs are just a few of the possibilities, and non-automotive applications are popular as well.

The cost to set up bedliner spraying equipment is considerable, but with proactive management, the initial expenditure could justify itself fairly quickly.

Sales Boost

Bedliners can give a restyler a step up to make more profit.

“Basically, it gives a restyler another point to build gross margin in the customization of any vehicle,” says John Jamroz, vice president of sales and marketing, Qwik Liner, Houston.

With the right pricing structure and sales techniques, the added draw of a high-profile product could bring in new customers as well as luring existing customers back.

“By offering multiple products and varied applications, you can broaden the range ofcustomers you attract,” says Teppy Wigington, public relations manager, Line-X, Santa Ana, Calif. “For example, color bedliners tend to attract more enthusiasts while the traditional black attracts more of the conventional audience.”

It’s all about one-stop shopping. In today’s fast-paced world, most customers prefer being able to visit a single source for all of their accessory needs.

Bedliners are a great addition for restylers because, according to Todd Ishmael of Gatorhyde, Wagoner, Okla., “They are able to provide an entire service to a customer. If they’re already providing service such as tint, wheels, tires, navigation or stereo, this is another service they can provide before the customer walks out the door and goes somewhere else to look. It’s all about being a one-stop shop.”

Setting a competitive pricing structure will keep new customers from ruling out a bedliner installer. Manufacturers suggest surveying local prices as well as your shop’s margins to establish an effective price range.

“Within our manual, we have general cost recommendations,” says Clayton Tomasino, Scorpion Protective Coatings, Cloverdale, Ind. “When someone starts spraying in a new area, they will go with market price, although some choose to go less than that.”

Of course, getting it into your customers’ vehicles is the important part. Luckily, manufacturers say that by the time the average buyer begins calling for prices, he or she has already made the decision to buy. The only question is from who.

“A lot of it comes down to speaking on the specific product you’re offering,” says Ben Gallagher, product marketing specialist, Rhino Linings, San Diego. “List the advantages the product offers to the consumer and potentially compared to your competition. The sales conversation has changed from ‘Why should I get a spray-in?’ to ‘Why should I get whatever brand of spray-in bedliner?’ Now that there are more uses for trucks, a bedliner salesman needs a product portfolio of products to meet all the customer needs-”offer what the customer needs to meet their truck usage needs.”

When it comes to selling the product, the customer is asking you to tout your product’s features: A perfect opening to talk up your bedliners.

“Sprayed-in bedliners conform to the vehicle,” says John Calash, owner, Steadfast Corp., East Haven, Conn. “They look better and last longer, and water doesn’t get trapped in the bottom. They have a nicer appearance and are more durable. They’re also lighter, so they are a little more efficient. You can get colors to match the truck bed, and now you can do graphics in the bed.”

It may happen that you’ll be asked to remove an existing bedliner, whether it’s to install another color, or access the bare metal of the truck bed panels for another reason (such as bodywork). The tedious job of removing the material can be speeded up with proper equipment. Tom Gough of Induction Innovations, Gilberts, Ill., claims that the company’s U-Series Glass Blaster product, a high-frequency electromagnet, makes removal of the coating easier.

“It releases the bond of the coating so instead of grinding it up you can scrape it off lightly or peel it off in sheets,” says Gough. “From talking to guys who have used our tool, our tool has taken a two-day job for one man and knocked it down to four hours.”

Finding Customers

Everyone knows word of mouth is king in the automotive industry, but there are things you can do to ensure that you’re reaching the most potential buyers.

It all starts online, according to some.

I feel probably the most effective thing is going to be anything to do with the Internet,” says Tomasino. “That’s true with new car sales and used car sales, and truck and automotive accessories go right along with that. People are going to the Internet to search for vehicles before they ever go into a showroom. The most important thing-have a web site, a presence online, so people can go to you and find your services.”

There’s always the traditional newspaper and Yellow Pages ads, but these are fading in many areas. Manufacturers recommend tailoring your marketing push to fit your area.

“Find that demographic you want to target,” says Gallagher. “The means of advertising varies from region to region. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In some places the Yellow Pages are great but in other places they are declining in effectiveness.”

It may take a little research to draw in new customers. Announcing new products to existing customers, however, can be more lucrative since they have already chosen to spend money in your shop.

“Most accessory stores will have a customer list, and if they are going to add spray-on liners to their existing line, the best way to reach them is to send e-mails or letters to existing clients,” says Calash.

Send them more than a simple announcement, however. Make it worth their while to come in.

“It’s great to follow up with an e-mail or direct mail introductory offer,” says Gallagher. “If you’re entering a new market, you want to draw people in. One advantage for restylers is that existing customers are more likely to purchase more products and services. It’s important to maintain a customer base so you can follow up with customers in the future.”

Bedliner manufacturers offer marketing materials and promotions to help their dealers sell the coating, too, and it can be effective to utilize these materials-whether they are point-of-purchase displays, brochures, product samples or contests and promotions.

Live radio broadcasts, purchased lists of new truck buyers, billboards and Little Nickel-type local publications are just a few more ways to let customers know you carry bedliners and other products.

Bedliners can be especially attractive to dealership customers, as well. If you work directly with dealerships, offer the bedliner as part of a package to dress up trucks for their lot before the sale.

The best marketing is direct to car dealerships,” says Calash. “We usually recommend giving them a retail and a wholesale price; times are tough right now, so they are looking to subsidize any way they can to make money. We’ll take a shortbed pickup and give them wholesale and retail prices, which are usually about a 30 percent spread.”

More Applications

It’s not just for trucks. A sprayed-on bedliner coating can be applied to anything that needs a tough, protective finish.

“Applications are only limited by imagination,” says Tomasino. “Installers can even adjust texture to make it glassy smooth or rough and grippy. If a customer is looking for any type of coating, we can change our coating to what they’re looking for.”

In the automotive, RV and powersports industry and beyond, there are plenty of surfaces to spray-all at a profit to you.

“The product can be used in many other areas, so it’s very important to emphasize it’s not just for trucks,” says Gallagher. “It’s up to the business owner what they want to get involved in. There is enormous growth potential in other areas beyond just trucks and the auto industry.”

Industrial applications as well as surfaces found in many homes and businesses are also prime candidates for coatings.

“One franchisee is spraying parking meters in Huntington Beach,” says Wigington. “Another sprays trams at Disneyland. We have people that line decks, boats, trailers, farm equipment, horse trailers. When it’s slow, our franchisees get creative and go out and find ways to make a profit with the coating.”

Manufacturers stress that the coating’s applications are nearly unlimited, and the profit potential of the ability to spray bedliner coating is huge.

“Not only can you do boats and trailers and trucks and rocker panels and ATVs, there are other items,” says Ishmael. “If you can tap into your local manufacturing industry on a monthly basis you can do more than trucks, spraying coatings on equipment.”

Some applications may require the ability to spray with mobile equipment, but there’s many other coating possibilities that can roll right into your shop.

“One of the biggest things is to make sure that you always look out of the box,” says Tomasino. “Just because you are in the truck bed market, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be open to spraying everything else. Go to your local fair and not only advertise for truck beds, but also that you can spray trailers, horse stalls and things of that nature. There’s many more uses than just spraying a truck bed.”

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A New Look

 Refreshing faded bedliners is an area of the spray-on bedliner market that offers good possibilities for profits. With the economy increasingly uncertain, it’s predicted that many drivers will choose to fix up their current ride or purchase used trucks, rather than buying new.

“It is a growing business, because there’s a lot of old bedliners out there,” says Todd Ishmael, sales, Gatorhyde, Wagoner, Okla. “Especially at the reconditioning deptartment at dealerships, or through an auto detail shop. In order for the truck to sell, they get the rest of the truck looking good, and now they need a way to address the bedliner.”

Some of those trucks may have a bedliner already installed, but if it is faded and no longer looks attractive, that customer is a perfect candidate for one of the systems to renew and refresh an existing bedliner.

“It’s a way to bring vibrancy back to black liner, give it nice color again,” says Ben Gallagher, product marketing specialist, Rhino Linings, San Diego.

Available products range from a hand-applied treatment you can sell the customer for him or her to install, to a more complex sprayed-on coating that will bond to the existing bedliner which must be installed in your shop.

“There are basically two types of products on the market today,” says Christa Martin, director of global marketing, Rhino Linings. “A UV topcoat should be professionally installed and can be used as a sales tool.The water-based products are easy do-it-yourself products that the customer can do and make a great revenue source at the point of sale.”

Selling the product isn’t complicated, manufacturers say. With a number of options including direct mail and gift certificates, there are effective methods to sell to both retail and dealership clients.

“If you’re in the retail market, and you have it on your shelf in a prepackaged kit for a certified installer to use, having that on the shelf in stock is a good upsell,” says Ishmael.

Of course, there is always the best method: Show’n’tell.

“Usually we have a lot of repeat business so if a customer comes in, and ask if the coating loses its shine, I show it to them,” says Chris Calash, store manager, Steadfast Corp., Lincoln, Mass. “I have a 55 gallon drum out front that is half covered, and they can see the difference.”

Another sales tool are package deals that include a maintenance plan, as suggested by Christa Martin, director of global marketing, Rhino Linings.

“The dealer can sell the product at the time of installation.”

Dealerships offer another avenue to sell bedliner repairs; used trucks coming in as trade-ins will appeal to shoppers more with a bedliner that looks freshly applied rather than worn out and beaten up.

Similarly, customers who use a truck for work may not care what it looks like, but if they are looking to sell their pickup they may decide to make it more appealing to potential buyers. Other truck owners may take more time to keep their truck looking nice.

“A lot of times customers don’t care-if they’re working out of the truck, they don’t care if it’s shiny,” says Calash. “Right before trade in, they’ll buy a bottle to freshen it up and increase the value. Some guys with show trucks want to keep them shiny, and they want to put it in once a year.”

-Sharla Sikes

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Safe Spraying

Bedliner material can be hazardous to spray.

For the safety of your installers, Restyling recommends following all safety measures as recommended by both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the bedliner coating manufacturer.

Overexposure to chemicals in some bedliner spray compounds can cause serious health concerns, and even death.

“Overexposure to MDI, especially the free monomer of MDI, can cause asthma and other respiratory problems,” says John Becker IV, president, Creative Material Technologies, Palmer, Mass. “Every installer should know the free monomer content of the particular material they’re spraying.”

The free monomer content information can be requested from the manufacturer of the bedliner coating. The permissible exposure limit while spraying, as established by OSHA, is 0.02 ppm.

Proper safety equipment, according to safety requirements from all manufacturers as well as government regulations.

Becker describes the ideal booth setup:

“The best spraying environment would have an exhaust vent low and behind you, and a fan high and in the front of the vehicle being sprayed. That creates a 30 degree angle above the cab, and the side rails create an airstream. The change you can make with different airflow design is amazing.”

Here are some basic safety precautions from the National Institute for Occupational Safety. More detailed information is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

Safety Recommendations

When spraying isocyanate-containing material, employers should:

  • Provide a ventilated spray booth or room and evaluate the effectiveness of the ventilation.
  • Establish a NIOSH-compliant written respiratory protection program and require a supplied-air full facemask respirator to minimize employee exposure.
  • Develop, implement and maintain a written hazard communication program and train employees about the program and chemicals they work with.
  • Institute medical monitoring of employees exposed to sensitizers or other asthma-causing agents. “Medical monitoring should begin with a baseline medical check. It’s important to establish a baseline to determine whether a particular employee’s respiratory function has been affected by potential exposure to MDI monomer,” adds Becker.
  • Conduct a workplace hazard assessment to identify health and safety issues, types of personal protective equipment to be used, and standard operating procedures to permit safe work.
  • Additionally, manufacturers/suppliers/distributors should emphasize the health and safety aspects for their products when conducting training about their product at end user worksites.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health