Winter is over and summer is around the corner, but auto glass shops continue to struggle with the same challenges the new year presented in January. Costs of materials, availability of glass and the price of gasoline impact business.
Patricia Smiley has been the president of Quackt Glass in South Carolina for three years. Quackt has locations in Lancaster, Charleston, Fort Mill and Columbia, S.C. Smiley says material costs are up 46% from 2021 for the company. “We’re not getting paid any more to do what we do,” she says.
The company also has mobile units and feels the impact of increased gas prices. But the most significant impact for Quackt, Smiley says, is the unavailability of auto glass. “Some of the basic stock items are just not available anymore,” she says. Or the company has to wait for glass products, and customers are not willing to wait. She says if Quackt cannot get the glass fast enough, customers go somewhere else for installation.
Matt Bailey of Greenville, S.C. commiserates with Smiley. He has owned 20/20 Auto Glass since 2007. Bailey has to order OEM glass to avoid calibration issues, and sometimes the dealerships have auto glass on backorder. “We’ve had situations where a customer backed out,” Bailey says. But his shop already ordered the glass necessary for replacement, and dealerships usually charge a restocking fee to return the glass. “If they’ll take the glass back,” he says.
For example, a couple of months ago, a customer ordered auto glass but had to wait three months. When the glass came in at the dealership, Bailey says the customer had sold the vehicle. So he had to pay a 25% to 30% restock fee to return the glass to the dealership.
Bailey says he orders from four vendors but had to change one of the vendors when it could not deliver the glass he needed because it was not available. “Between all four of them, we’re not having too many problems getting what we need [now],” he says. But glass availability has presented challenges in recent months.
Bailey also says he pays $5,000 more per month for gas. “The gas prices are pretty bad. I think we’re paying twice what we did,” he says.
Josh Bradley opened Clear Choice Auto Glass in Greenville, S.C., 11 years ago. “The first part of the year, it was a little rough,” he says. While the availability of glass has not been a concern for him, Bradley says the rising costs of materials are becoming more of an issue. Bradley says his company paid $39,000 for auto glass and materials from three different wholesalers in April. “That’s high,” he says. Typically, his company pays $30,000 per month.
“I’m just now starting to do that,” Bradley says of looking into ways to offset the increasing costs of materials for his business. He says he will encourage customers to bring their vehicles to the shop. “But that’s up to the customer. They’re so used to mobile,” he says. He will watch how they use supplies and not waste anything. “Jobs come in, I got to get them done. I got to have the parts.”
“My gas bill has doubled in the last month,” he says. Bradley says he used to pay $1,400 to 1,500 a month to keep his five auto glass trucks fueled. Now he pays $2,500 to $2,800 per month. Also, wholesalers are charging $8 to $9 per delivery per day for increased gas prices. Clear Choice receives deliveries from three wholesalers each day with a total charge of at least $24, more if the company receives two deliveries from the same wholesaler each day. “Those are just costs that we got to eat.”
Another issue Bradley faces is rising labor rates. “Everybody is wanting more money,” he says of new hires. “Across the board, everything is up. And something’s got to be done.”