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From what I have observed over the past year, 2013 holds a promise on a return to better and better carwash volumes. As the economy settles, people are returning to regular spending habits. It looks like the real estate market has bottomed out and there are also signs that employment is on the rise in some areas. Real estate and development costs still remain high; however a sound business plan with the right location still makes a lot of business sense. These are all good signs for the carwash industry and we will see more of the same, with a slight increase in carwash volumes for the coming year.
What you need to do right now
Judging from talks I’ve had with many of the operators during the tradeshow season last fall, from the east to the west, carwash operators are now planning to make improvements and reinvest in their locations. Some are continuing to expand and grow the number of sites they own and operate; while others are simply looking to improve their location and offering. The bottom-line is this: Offer the customer more of what they are looking for.
The strong message is the need to define what you have, and to redefine the value proposition you are now offering your customer. Unlike previous years, future trends in this business lean towards implementing subtle changes within your business ― subtle changes, but with a strong impact. Customers are very loyal to ‘convenient’ and ‘clean’ ― those operators that do this best will reap the rewards.
Ask yourself these questions
Here’s a checklist for some the questions you should ask yourself:
- Is it time for a facelift?
Consider building improvements. Your business has to have curb appeal to attract customers off of the street.
- Are you employing and taking advantage of the latest in equipment and chemical technology?
- Are you up-to-date?
Enough can’t be said about the importance of convenience, RFID systems, and monthly pass packages.
- Are you marketing your carwash to the best of your ability?
Social media, for example, is an inexpensive and highly effective marketing tool.
Consider the trends
Whether you own a tunnel, an in-bay automatic, or a self-serve carwash, look closely at what trends are emerging in the industry and follow the proven methods. This is essential to your success now and in the future.
Here are some of the important trends happening in our industry:
- The move to eliminate labour and automate the washing process ― take advantage of today’s technology. Both equipment and chemical manufacturers have developed products that are going to make a difference to your bottom line, and the quality of the wash that your customer receives.
- Hit the “refresh button” on your site ― your customers will love it! Take a hard look at your wash … does it need a facelift? How about your signage? Is it fresh and clean and does it deliver the message you want? Can you add more services that will improve not only your revenue, but also improve your wash quality?
- If you are a tunnel operator, are you offering all of the latest in services, such as tire dressing, high-end foam wax and polishing? Could you be producing dryer vehicles?
- If you operate an in-bay automatic, look at a mini-tunnel express for your carwash. Should you consider a touch offering?
- If you are not using a monthly pass program, you are operating in the dark ages! Today’s consumers expect and demand ease and convenience.
Finally, as an equipment manufacturer, I see a continuous movement towards “touch technology”. Why? It comes back to the key driving factors of convenience and quality. Your customers have less time to spend at your carwash, so you need to ensure you get them in and out quickly with the best you can offer in wash quality, and be totally satisfied at the same time. Now, in-bay automatics can be converted into express IBAs which can triple a carwash’s volume, and ultimately, provide more convenience and offer up more value to customers.
Remember that promising a customer value is what gets them to choose your carwash over the competition, and delivering on that promise is what makes customers come back to your carwash again and again. Make this commitment a strong part of your 2013 business plan.
Vince MacNeil, CEO of MacNeil Wash Systems, has over 30 years of experience in the equipment manufacturing business. His primary field of expertise is in the tunnel industry, where he has been involved in car wash manufacturing and development throughout North America and globally. His ability to keep abreast of technological change and consumer trends in the car wash industry is an important part of the success of MacNeil Wash Systems.