Working SMART, thinking SMARTer

The introduction of SMART (Small to Medium Area Repair Technology) repairs to the UK almost 14 years ago spawned an entirely new sector within the automotive services industry, in turn giving rise to the lucrative franchise opportunities available today

The process of Small to Medium Area Repair Technology (SMART), originally developed by ChipsAway in the USA in 1989, enables minor damage to car paintwork -scratches, scuffs and chips for example - to be repaired within a matter of hours and at a fraction of the price of a traditional body shop. Moreover, because SMART techniques achieve showroom standard finish without requiring a total panel respray, the repairs can be done 'on-the-spot', wherever is most convenient to the customer.

Initially, the first SMART repair franchisees targeted trade customers such as car dealerships and body shops, which served both to test the marketplace and to build credibility for the technique. However, as SMART repair services have evolved from 'new technology' into a well established, professionally recognised process, increasingly the prime market for SMART services has become just about everyone who owns a car.

Currently, there are over 32 million cars on the road in the UK alone, with an estimated 16 million minor SMART opportunities annually. Research suggests that over half of all vehicles have some kind of minor paintwork damage and yet the majority of owners decline to have repairs done, mostly citing the heavy costs associated with body shop repairs and the inconvenience of having their vehicles off the road for a couple of days. All this adds up to a massive potential marketplace for SMART repairs.

ChipsAway is the leading brand in the SMART sector, with the largest franchise network of its kind in the world approaching 380 franchisees nationwide, and yet ChipsAway is often unable to meet local demand.

In common with most other industries, the SMART repair sector has become increasingly focused on reducing its impact on the environment. The good news for potential franchisees is that SMART repairs continue to be significantly more environmentally friendly than traditional body shop repairs, simply because SMART repairs can be isolated to the specific area of damage, therefore using much smaller amounts of paint than body shops. The fact that SMART repairs are much 'greener' is an increasingly important competitive differentiator in a business world where customers - both in business and as individuals - want to deal with ethical companies that are environmentally responsible.

At ChipsAway, we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously. Indeed, a recently concluded independent assessment of the environmental impact of a ChipsAway repair, carried out by Dr Eric Hartmann (Eur Chem CChem MRSC AIEMA) of Pro-Consult Solutions Ltd, confirmed that the ChipsAway system not only complies fully with EU Paint Directive 2004/42/CE; but releases 92 per cent less Volatile Organic Compounds and 99 per cent less CO2; and has a carbon footprint 73 per cent lower than that of a conventional body shop repair.

Despite the much talked about 'credit crunch', we believe that the SMART repair sector continues to offer a fantastic opportunity for independence, freedom and high potential earnings. In fact, as money gets tighter, SMART businesses like ChipsAway and their franchisees actually stand to benefit as increasingly discerning customers look for best value for money. We provide customers with top quality repairs at a substantially lower cost. Overheads for franchisees, particularly mobile franchisees, are low and margins are high. Therefore, more than ever, my advice to potential franchisees is think SMART!

Written by Lloyd Evans