Consumer demand for aftermarket repair work held steady during the third quarter but showed signs of weakness later in the period, according to Northcoast Research, a Cleveland-based research firm which surveys the owners of more than 300 automotive repair facilities to get a read on consumer demand for auto parts and service work. Sales trends in the "do it for me" (DIFM) channel were positive on a year-over-year basis during the third quarter, as technicians reported that the strong traffic (car count) trends that characterized the second quarter spilled over into July and early August, the company noted.
"While it is encouraging to see that the market continued to experience growth in the third quarter, our enthusiasm for the state of the industry is tempered somewhat by the fact that demand appears to have weakened sequentially," the company noted in a quarterly report. "The survey data suggests that monthly sales trends slowed throughout the quarter as the technicians reported softer top-line results in each successive month."
In the second quarter, Northcoast Researc noted some of the strongest traffic trends seen in some time." Unfortunately, it appears that traffic trends weakened as we moved through the third quarter with contacts indicating that monthly car count statistics were pressured in late August and September. Additionally, the higher average ticket that many garage owners have been reporting looks to have moderated late in the quarter," the company noted.
Much like the cadence of sales trends in the quarter, the collective outlook of the garage owners in the sample deteriorated through the period and was punctuated by a weak reading in September. "In fact, our quantitative measure of forward-looking expectations among the technicians in our sample fell to its lowest level of the year," the report noted.
"While we would have liked to see sales trends gain momentum during the quarter, we would point out that commentary from the channel suggests that the September weakness was particularly late in the month in conjunction with media rhetoric surrounding the likelihood of a government shutdown," the report noted. "Now that the issue has been resolved, we are hopeful that demand trends will rebound but only time will tell."