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Air fresheners / Business Operations / Equipment / Multi-profit Centers / Sales and marketing

Want more revenue? Try the following impulse sales items.

May 23, 2014
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Once you have a customer at your carwash, there are numerous things that can be done to generate added revenue and leave them satisfied with additional purchases. The impulse buys market is always evolving, and there are also many standard practices that can be used to optimize the customer experience, and make them want to come back for more.

The heavy hitters

The “Big Three” impulse buy categories at carwashes, according to Chris Wade, vice president of Superior Auto Extras, are:

  1. Automotive accessories
  2. Greeting cards, and
  3. Food

More specifically, the bestselling items within those categories, Wade continued, are air fresheners, car mats, soda, water and birthday cards.

Items improving in marketshare

Mobile phone charges and styluses for smartphone touchscreens are two of the new technology products that are growing in popularity, according to Steven Torr, strategic brands manager for E-filliate Inc., a wholesale distributor of accessories. Torr added that they have become “some of the top selling items.”

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The mobile market continues to grow, and Torr said that “dual car and wall chargers have been increasing in sales at a dramatic pace.” Gift and novelty items, Wade said, are items that continue to improve in sales as well.

Bringing in new products

There are many things that wash owners can do to improve impulse sales at their establishment, Wade said. “The most important factor is keeping displays neat, clean and well organized. Bringing in new and up-to-date products as part of the display will bring customers back,” he added. For example, the new Febreze Car vent clips are currently very popular, and Wade recommends staying on top of trends, and brining in items like this that your customers will have recently heard about or used, and will want to purchase.

When an item is selling in a timely manner, Torr said a mistake many owners make is not replenishing it. If a display that was sold through is now sitting empty, that is a missed opportunity to bring in more sales, according to Torr. He added that popular displays need to be checked daily, as opposed to weekly, to ensure you’re maximizing your sales opportunities.

Proper merchandising to increase sales

The way that merchandise is presented is also important in the success of impulse sales. “A creative and upscale display will not only increase sales, but also enhance the image of the carwash,” Wade said. A wash can supplement its wall displays with free standing fixtures, similar to that of gift shops and specialty stores. This way, the customer will have maximum exposure to the products that your wash is offering. A good rule for merchandising, Wade said, is that “whenever possible, make sure that customers are exposed to the display before they reach the cashier.”

It is also important to keep categories together when presenting impulse buys at your wash, said Torr. This is especially important when a customer is looking for a specific product (like a certain phone charger), and also to increase sales for items a customer may not have come in to buy, but may need. “Charging cables are a natural item to be sold in conjunction with a car or wall charger,” noted Torr, so placing them near one another is an easy way to improve sales.  

Treat every customer that comes to your wash as a candidate to make a purchase, said Torr. In order to attract these potential customers, Torr said it is necessary to have “low prices, exciting colors and cross-sell opportunities” in place.

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Wash owners often want to keep the register counters looking clean, and devoid of merchandise, but Wade said that means you’re missing out on potentials sales. “Those counters represent the greatest sales generating real estate [at a carwash], much like the checkout aisle in big box retailers,” he said. There are also additional benefits that come from keeping certain items at the register, Wade continued. “Smaller items in displays like novelties should always be closer to the cashier, both to increase their ‘impulse exposure’ and discourage theft.”

Don’t forget about the less popular items

One of the key mistakes that many wash owners make is to limit the overall product selection available on the displays, Wade said. While air fresheners may represent around 50 percent of sales in the automotive category, according to Wade, only focusing on this product will restrict your ability to move other popular items. “Limiting the display to primarily air fresheners may mean the display contains all bestselling products, however, it also means the operator is losing 50 percent of the sales potential,” he said.

Give the customer a great experience

Your wash may have done everything right on the merchandising front, and have a wide array of selections for your customers to choose from, but if the customer doesn’t receive quality customer service, they may not even consider making an impulse purchase. “Having friendly and engaging sales staff should always go hand in hand with offering the right products for your customers,” Torr said. “A proactive sales staff that is always making sure products are stocked and merchandised correctly will add money right to the bottom line.”

Current challenges

A big challenge in the modern carwash industry, according to Wade, is “to develop displays, and systems that allow flex carwashes and even many express washes to take advantage of the additional profits offered by selling retail products.” He continued that a wash with a design that allows employees to “float” between the tunnel and the lobby can assist in creating a well-maintained display, which is easily shoppable for customers. Portable displays can also be effective in creating a profit center in various parts of the carwash.

With proper presentation and service, impulse sales items can be a valuable additional revenue source at your carwash. Make sure you’re keeping up on the latest trends and providing your customers every opportunity to buy that new air freshener, or a spare phone charger.

Consider these impulse items for your carwash

  • Air fresheners, which make up 50 percent of sales in automotive category, said Chris Wade, vice president of Superior Auto Extras
  • Car mats
  • Soda
  • Water
  • Birthday Cards

The Emerging mobile market items that E-filliate Inc. Strategic Brands Manager Steven Torr said owners should have: 

  • Car charges for mobile phones
  • Wall charges for mobile phones
  • Touchscreen styluses
  • Earphones

Carry these products in a number of different colors, Torr said, to increase interest.

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