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Compiled by Bud Abraham, Detail Editor
President – International Detailing Association
Despite the economic conditions in the U.S., we are seeing some growth in the industry due to several factors. First, continued growth of express detailing at carwashes has increased consumer awareness of detailing. Next, the use of the Internet and social media as marketing tools has created more consumer awareness for detailing. Finally, those in the detail business are investing in education, making their businesses better by focusing on marketing and customer service. These trends will continue into 2013, especially because of the Internet and social media.
President – RJR Enterprises, Industry Consultant
Looking at 2012 and to 2013, the strengths that I see for the detail industry are: The tightest used car market in 20 years and rapidly aging baby-boomers who are “do-it-for-me” buyers. The industry also provides opportunities for those willing to take advantage of express detailing services, extended protection programs and the conversion of self-service carwashes to flex-serve (automatic wash, express and full-service detailing). Finally, the industry is faced with some threats: Technology companies, such as cherry.com; express exterior carwash operations that offer a mini-detail online; and the failure of detail business owners to adapt and innovate.
Owner – P&S Chemical Sales
As a supplier to the industry, a trend that I saw in 2012 continuing into 2013 is detail operations becoming more professional. There is also growth in the number of on-site detail operations in auto dealerships. The dealer is contracting with outside detail companies to operate a detail department in the dealership, which allows them to control in-house costs and capitalize on retail sales. Finally, another growing trend is the movement of automatic carwashes away from full-service restoration detailing, moving instead to express maintenance detailing services exclusively.
Sales & Technical Services Manager (retired) – Automotive International
Personally, I have not seen much change in the industry other than more reliance on the Internet for all kinds of information on detailing. This has created, among other things, an awareness of detailing chemicals and how they are formulated. Detailers are paying more attention to the material safety data sheets (MSDS) to know the makeup of chemicals to avoid health and regulatory problems. There have been some technological developments in the area of dual action buffers — new types of pads for these tools vs. the traditional rotary buffers. I do not see any increase in sales volumes for the detail industry because of the down economy and the back-alley detailers who keep the service prices down.
Owner – Dr. Beasley’s
There are a few things I would comment on regarding the detail business in 2012 and into the future. Daily deal couponing, such as Groupon and Living Social, is hurting the industry. While the immediate cash flow seemingly helps the cash-strapped operator, in the long run it is hurting them and the industry because it is nearly impossible to provide a high-quality service at a low price. The online reviews are hurting both the business and the industry. Next, matte finishes have gone mainstream. While only used on exotics like Lamborghini or Maserati initially, matte finishes are being used on more and more vehicles. This offers a huge opportunity for detailers who know how to detail a matte finish vehicle. Even with a down economy, it seems those with money are willing to spend it for a quality detail service. This means a detailer must promote their business to the right markets.
Owner – Attention to Detail
I found that 2012 was an interesting year for the auto detailing industry. It appears that the well-educated detailers experienced growth in their businesses using the traditional forms of promotion as well as the new online methods. I also noted that the aggressive detailer can win the price war by properly educating the motorist as to the needs of their vehicle as well as what they do compared to the low-ball detailer. Personally, I look to 2013 very positively, the economy and politics aside. People will get back to normal and relax. When they relax, enjoying a better quality of life, they will open their wallets for services such as detailing. At least that is what I hope to see happen.
Prentice St. Clair
Detail in Progress – Industry Consultant
What I have noticed throughout 2012 is a growing divide between the true, professional detail business owner and the “quick-buck” weekend warrior operators. The professional is growing and improving through education, training and the utilization of state-of-the-art technology that is being introduced to the industry. The professional is fast distancing themselves from the back-alley operator. A key device that successful professionals are using is networking, through the Internet and especially by joining and participating in the International Detailing Association (IDA). This association has organized industry professionals into a strong voice representing the entire detail industry. The IDA offers not only networking opportunities, but educational seminars and an independent Detailer Certification Program as well. Both allow a professional detailer to set themselves apart from the competition.