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Some DIFM outlets performed better than others in 2021 recovery

Although all DIFM outlets expanded their repair volume last year, not all types of outlets shared equally in the sales surge

Fort Wayne, Ind.—Recovering from the double-digit downturn of the Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) 2020 market, repair outlets rebounded strongly in product sales last year. However, some DIFM outlets performed better than others in the 2021 recovery, according to a new analysis.

“Although virtually all DIFM outlets expanded their repair volume last year, not all types of outlets shared equally in the sales surge,” stated the 2023 Lang Aftermarket Annual for the 2021 performances of all major types of DIFM outlets, framed by a 10-year sales history.

The following are key takeaways from the report.

DIFM Market Plunge and Recovery

COVID-19 spurred a historic recline in Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) 2020 auto repair across the U.S. Following the pandemic, the DIFM products posted a record surge last year, up by nearly $8 billion at user-price. However, not all of the seven types of DIFM outlets generated equal portions of this historic recovery.

Unprecedented increases occurred in light vehicle annual DIFM product sales last year that ranged from $0.4 billion to more than $2.2 billion for individual groups of repair outlets, with corresponding changes in the product share of DIFM outlets.

DIFM 2021 Winners

• Repair specialists (outlets focusing on a limited menu of vehicle repair) expanded their 2021 DIFM market share by 0.5%, reflecting a $2.2 billion product increase.

• Foreign specialists (outlets concentrating on the repair of foreign nameplates) increased their product sales by approximately $1.2 billion, while adding 0.4% to their DIFM product share. This was largely a result of the strong performance of foreign nameplates in the DIFM market during 2021.

• Vehicle dealers ranked third in product share gain during 2021, with a 0.2% increase. This reflected their $2 billion DIFM product increase.

Underperforming DIFM Outlets

• Service stations and garages, the most numerous DIFM outlet group, increased their product volume by $1.4 billion in 2021. However, this was a slower pace than the DIFM market’s overall growth; as a result, their DIFM product share declined.

• Tire stores ranked fifth in 2021 DIFM product sales, with a 0.6% increase in volume. Nevertheless, their DIFM product share fell.

• Discount stores/mass merchandisers managed an 8% increase in product sales during 2021, but that was insufficient to maintain their market share, and it declined.

• Auto parts stores recorded flat 2021 product sales, and their DIFM share receded last year.

Differing Rates of 2021 Outlet Growth

Foreign specialists, repair specialists and dealers all achieved double-digit product growth during 2021.

Foreign specialists led with more than a 14% surge, followed by repair specialists and car dealers, each with just over an 11% annual gain.

Tire stores and discount stores/mass merchandisers with bays ranked fourth and fifth in percentage growth during 2021, each achieving between 7% and 8% growth, followed by service stations and garages with just over a 4% product gain.

Strongest DIFM Outlet Performances

Only two of the seven major groups of DIFM outlets recorded higher sales in 2021 than two years earlier: repair specialists and foreign specialists.

Together, these two outlets generated close to $3.5 billion in product growth, at user-price, during 2021, nearly 45% of the total annual DIFM product gain.

Causes of DIFM Outlet Performances

The significant differences in the performances of the seven major types of DIFM outlets reflected the kinds of products they install, the nameplates and age mix of the vehicles they repair, and the competitive strengths they bring to the marketplace.

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