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Poll: Labor costs increase during winter

October 11, 2010
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Winter is generally the busiest season for carwash owners operating in regions that see an annual snow accumulation. Salt and road grime bring customers in more regularly than during the rest of the year.

As business increases, carwash owners often find they need some extra help on hand to manage the higher volume.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing® magazine set out to determine if the majority of operators see a rise in labor costs during the busy season, either associated with hiring seasonal employees or employees working overtime, and if any of these additional costs are offset by the supplementary revenue.

The results of our recent unscientific straw poll showed that many wash owners will see an increase in labor costs during the winter months.

However, the results were split just about evenly between the 157 participants who responded, with approximately 54 percent answering “yes,” their winter labor costs do increase and almost 46 percent answering “no.”

After speaking with several operators, it seems that although labor costs increase for many, the increase in volume during the winter months tends to offset that rise.

Real wash owners weigh in

  • “We hire anywhere from six to 10 employees during the winter season to match the increase in business,” Kristen Shorey, assistant manager of Hogan Road Car Wash, Bangor, ME said. “The increase in business during the winter months makes the increased cost of labor reasonable. We do about 500 to 600 cars-per-day here, so the extra help is definitely needed.”
  • “We do not have to hire more employees since our business is small, we do, however have our employees work a lot of overtime,” Ann Skolsield, treasurer of Brewer Car Wash Inc., Brewer, ME said. “That is how we increase our labor during the winter months to deal with the increase in volume of cars-per-day. Paying the workers overtime does not detrimentally affect our profit since the volume of cars during the winter months increases dramatically.”
  • “Our business in the winter does increase, but we only require an additional person to help out with this influx,” Rob Collins, manager of J&S Oil Car Wash, Manchester, ME said. “With the additional person, the labor costs don’t go up too dramatically. It is definitely worth it to hire one additional person during the winter months because of the increase in business.”

Labor expenses
At the recent Western Carwash Association annual convention, Chris Brown, vice president of organizational development for the Khoury Group, spoke to attendees about the labor expenses incurred at a typical full-service carwash.

Brown explained that 49 percent of an owner’s operational expenses go toward labor costs.

This means that although an operator may see an increase in revenue during the winter months, it’s important to continually focus on managing and reducing labor costs by tightening operational practices and procedures, regardless of the season or additional revenue.

The Professional Car Care B2B Trade Group’s™ online surveys are not scientific. The results simply reflect the opinions of those visitors to the Professional Car Care Online™ website.