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News   February 4, 2016   by Allan Janssen

CIAA offers help to struggling Alberta shops

CIAA executive director Art Wilderman says there’s “a lot of pain” in cities like Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.

The Canadian Independent Automotive Association is offering its resources to repair shops struggling to stay afloat in areas with strong ties to Canada’s stagnant energy sector.

CIAA executive director Art Wilderman says there’s “a lot of pain” in cities like Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.

“For some people, things are looking quite desperate,” he said. “There are shops that haven’t done two oil changes in a week. I got a call like that the other day.”

He said members of the CIAA board of directors want to help in any way they can, including putting together information on federal assistance programs, and offering free management consulting to hard-hit shop owners.

“Some of our guys have been through the worst of this before, and have learned that there are things you can do to get through it,” he said. “We’re trying to find solutions, to help them stay afloat until the dust settles here.”

In a special edition of the association’s newsletter, Wilderman wrote: “We have all experienced a slow January and or February in the past, but 2016 is proving to be more troublesome than normal in some markets… The difference this year is that the energy sector of our economy can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

He assured struggling shop owners that CIAA members are ready to listen and help.

“The members that have stepped forward as mentors are very experienced veterans of the repair business, willing to offer their time at no charge and with the highest level of confidentiality.”

He’s also offering a lead on a government program that will help businesses keep staff that might otherwise have to be laid off.

Not all areas of the province are in bad shape, he said. Shops in agricultural areas seem to be doing quite well. For those who have seen a precipitous drop in sales, however, there are some fiscal dangers that need to be avoided.

“Some people will hang on too long to staff that they can’t afford when there’s no work for them. They’ll mortgage the house when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. And when you start playing the payables game, where you rotate payments to suppliers, that’s never good.”

The situation could take years to resolve, he acknowledged.

“This all depends on oil prices, as everyone recognizes, and the oil prices aren’t being regulated by anybody in Canada, let alone Alberta. It’s a global issue and until that changes things are going to be pretty rough.”

Wilderman said he has received some emotional phone calls, but he’s been quick to point out that there are plenty of cars in every part of Alberta, and they still have to be serviced.

“Everybody’s car does break down in the end. People might put repairs and maintenance off for a while. It might be spring, but eventually we’ll get that work. We know that’s going to happen,” he said.


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4 Comments » for CIAA offers help to struggling Alberta shops
  1. Mark Lakevold says:

    Some of these shops need to be out of business, there has been a lot of underhanded business practices by many shops including shops near me during the past boom. I think that if you have done a good job over the past ten years, treated customers fairly and so on, they should be able to survive. And just to make it clear our shop is in the heart of small town oil country, where things are probably hit the worst, the ag industry is mostly self sufficient, to say that it will support the shops is a bold statement. As long as assistance is granted in a proper manner I have no problem with it, however likely it will be the same shop that has a $100,000 shop truck mascot that will benefit, (any owner of a good honest shop knows that the profit is not there to afford that if treating customers fairly) taking away from legit shops that strive to take proper and fair care of customers every day, which if this carries on long enough will also be affected and there will be no money left for us.

    • True . If you serviced your regular clients well and didn’t totally rely on boom customers then you should be ok . I take it that the regular locals are still in town and you’ve taken care of them and still will .

  2. The work share program from the government will not be enough . The empty shops are going to require a really great marketing campaign to get the people in and try their services . Some free offers and complimentary inspections ?

  3. Murray Parnell says:

    What about the shop owners in Ontario, don’t think with the mind winter things aren’t slow. There is no assistance for us and we dont get the opportunity to over charge like they have in the past years in Alberta. A smart business owner should have lots put away for a rainy day

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