Island Auto owners, Dalbert and Tabitha Livingstone
For most people, when they think of an island paradise, images of palm trees and white sand float through their mind; unless you’re Dalbert Livingstone.
In a year where many small businesses in the auto recycling industry struggled to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, for Livingstone, owner, and his team at Island Auto in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the province became an oasis for the business. “We were actually up in 2020 over 2019,” Livingstone admitted in an interview with Canadian Auto Recyclers.
“We were fortunate enough that we were considered essential, so we never closed the whole time, even in March when things weren’t good. We were able to do roadside service and online sales for the early portion [of the lockdown], but P.E.I. wasn’t hit very hard, so our restrictions were lifted fairly early and we’ve been business as usual.”
Island Auto’s growth is not simply a number on a page either, as the business also managed to expand the shop’s services over the past year. “We implemented a service centre within our business. To see that take off and grow that portion of the business. I guess it’s the accomplishment of growing a side business within our own business,” said Livingstone. As well, Island Auto found itself ahead of the curve when it came to e-commerce as Livingstone and the team were able to hit the ground running when lockdowns came around in the Spring.
“We became proficient enough with e-commerce to open an eBay store. For instance, in the times of COVID now where the online sales portion of our business has been growing, we were already prepared and capable of competing in that market,” said Livingstone.
The Livingstone’s have a legacy of innovation in the auto recycling industry as Dalbert recalls his grandfather’s contributions, the man who opened the business back in 1966. “My grandfather was one of the first [shop owners] in the Maritimes to put in a computer system for cataloguing inventory,” said Livingstone.
It’s no surprise that Island Auto manages to find success in so many areas of the business when you consider that Livingstone has filled just about every role there is to fill at a recycler. “I started here right out of university. I’ve worked all the odd jobs around the shop: the sales counter, dismantling, loader, tow trucks, that sort of thing. My grandfather, I guess was recruiting me to be an owner, so I guess that’s what brought me here.”
In 2013, Livingstone and his wife bought Island Auto and have been running it ever since. Despite Island’s impressive successes over the last year, Livingstone and the team are going to keep it simple for 2021 as much of the future for businesses remains uncertain. “[We hope] to weather the storm and are able to move parts—but also to grow the service side of the business as well as grow the online sales portion.”