Attendance at this year’s Car Care World Expo was down and with the state of the economy, it might be a worrisome time. But, we shouldn’t worry, says Mark Thorsby, executive director of the International Carwash Association (ICA), who said the “downs” will be replace with “ups.” Professional Carwashing & Detailing recently interviewed Thorsby about the Expo, what the carwash industry can do during these and future financial binds, and what’s going on with ICA’s recently formed Car Wash Market Assessment Task Force.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing:Overall, how did this year’s Car Care World Expo go?
Mark Thorsby: We were very pleased with the outcome of Car Care World Expo 2008. We expected attendance to be in the 7,000 - 7,500 range and it was. The Orlando venue attracted attendees who normally don’t go to Las Vegas so our exhibitors saw new customers. Our New Investor Seminar attracted more than 150 attendees; more than 1,000 people attended the Celebrate 2008 event at Epcot; General Richard Meyers was an outstanding keynote speaker; and we made several changes to the program that all seemed to work. Most importantly, perhaps, was that exhibitor companies reserved more than 120,000 square feet of exhibit space for Las Vegas in 2009, signaling their optimism about what’s going to happen in the industry this next year!
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Is there anything you would have changed for this year’s show?
MT: Six weeks in advance of the Expo, I would have reduced the price of gas $1 per gallon and had the sun shine every day across America!
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How did it compare to last year’s?
MT: Favorably. The overall size of the Expo (attendees, number of exhibiting companies, net square feet of exhibit space) was smaller, but that was expected in Orlando, but the overall feedback from both attendees and exhibitors has been universally positive.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Did you notice any new products or trends within the carwash industry?
MT: Probably three stand out — “green,” operating expense savings and new and alternative financing options for carwash owners and potential owners.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: With the current state of the economy and the predictions of its future, what is your outlook for the carwash industry? Are you able to remain upbeat? Are you encouraging other operators and those amongst the carwash industry to stay positive?
MT: Absolutely! Our economy experiences ups and downs and while the downs are never enjoyable, they will be replaced with ups. Just look at the demographics of the U.S. population and all of them point to more cars and more customers. There are more cars being washed today than ever before. And, that number will only increase tomorrow. Now, where will they wash their cars? That will be determined by the carwash operators and their employees. I encourage operators to focus on your core customers, do the little things to improve their overall carwash experience, and re-invest in your business. If you do those three things, you’ll be poised to prosper when the economy turns.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Can you tell us a little about the Car Wash Market Assessment Task Force?
MT: The Task Force has been formed to accomplish three things by May 15, 2008:
- Assess the current state of the carwash equipment and supply market (buyer/ seller marketplace);
- Examine the International Carwash Association’s strategy for providing a car wash buyer/seller marketplace;
- Make recommendations to the Board of Directors about how the International Carwash Association can improve its effectiveness in providing the buyer/seller marketplace.
The Task Force will meet on May 13 and make its report to the Board of Directors for their consideration on May 18 during their Spring Board meeting.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What is the ICA working on right now that we should know about?
MT: I want encourage everyone to go to the Association’s new website — www.carwash.org — there is a lot of great information, videos, and tools to help you improve the performance of your businesses. New additions are being made each month of “The Cleaning Edge” — a video capturing the best carwash operating practices collected from carwash operators across the country. Planning has already begun for Car Care World Expo 2009, April 1-4 in Las Vegas so now is the time to let us know your thoughts on what we can do to improve the event. Is there an educational topic you’d like to hear about? What new products would you like to see companies exhibit?