Maximizing PPF Profits
By Mike Burke
Many paint protection film (PPF) shop owners struggle to be profitable for a lot of reasons. In particular, the material, shop overhead and insurance are all expensive. There is a fine line between making a profit and pricing yourself out of the market. We don’t talk enough about the fact that we tend to go after the “wrong” customers. I’ve been in this industry a long time and watched it grow and transform from a niche segment to one that is becoming more mainstream every day.
Past and Present
In the 1990s, kit options were limited and the customer base was predominantly supercar owners. Today, patterns are available for almost every car on the market and the internet has made ordinary consumers much more likely to at least know what PPF is. In addition, soaring new car prices mean a $1,500 to $3,000 add-on to protect the paint no longer seems unreasonable.
In 2021, fewer than 2,500 new Lamborghinis or Ferraris were sold in the U.S. Still, buyers took delivery of more than 30,000 new Chevrolet Corvettes, 250,000 new Teslas, 350,000 new BMWs and more than two million new pickup trucks (any of which retail for $60,000-$100,000 and more). Yet we are still marketing primarily to exotic and supercar owners. Why?
It makes sense. We’re all car people in this business, and given a choice between working on a Ferrari or a Toyota, the Ferrari will always be more fun and exciting. We love to post photos of sexy cars on Instagram, and pride ourselves on doing a great job on a great car. In addition, it’s tempting to go for the jobs with the highest ticket prices—why do a Tesla full front end for $1,850 when a guy with a Lamborghini is willing to pay $9,500 for you to wrap his entire car? Well, there are several reasons.
1 Think about the return on your time investment. Any of my PPF shops can knock out two Tesla front ends in a day, but a full Lambo will tie up a bay for seven days. That’s enough to do 14 of those $1,800 Teslas … so I can bring in over $25,000 in the time it takes to do a $9,500 job on an exotic. This is true across the board. There are exceptions to every rule, but exotics tend to have many more pieces and parts, more difficult shapes and higher client expectations. Doing multiple small, easy jobs is always going to be more profitable than a large, difficult one.
2 The fact that production cars generally are easier to do and non-enthusiast owners tend to be less picky benefits you with regard to your employees as well. One of the biggest complaints I hear from PPF shop owners is how hard it is to find and train good installers. It can take up to two years to train a newbie to the level where he can handle a McLaren independently. But I can get a guy with no experience doing a full Tesla in a month and be competent on most production cars in about three.
After that, every car he does doubles as training. If all of my business is supercars, I have to make a huge training investment or pay a premium to recruit advanced installers before I can have anyone making money for me. If the bulk of my business is luxury sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks, my installers can improve their craft while being productive.
3 Finally, higher volume production work will always be the easiest to scale, and scaling is the name of the game. A business’s goal is to be able to step away; the only way to do that is through efficiency and volume. If you don’t grow, you’ve created a job for yourself—not built a business.
Mike Burke has been in the window film industry for 33 years and the paint protection business for 26 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has more than 68 locations in 19 states and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection, and ceramic coatings. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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