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Carwash owners are faced with a difficult dichotomy: They need to make improvements to save money and attract new customers, but will often have to spend money to do this. So how can operators improve the look and atmosphere of their wash without breaking the bank?
For starters, some improvements — like new signage and smaller-scale equipment enhancements — can give the operator a bigger bang for his buck. The experts we spoke with had some low-cost and innovative ideas for implementing these upgrades at your site.
Signs of the times
Perry Powell, an independent sign and image consultant who works with wash owners on the placement of science-based signs, neuro-marketing menus, and neuro-marketing sales presentations, knows how a good image can affect wash sales.
“In today’s economic climate, wash owners have to take advantage of every opportunity to bolster the success of their businesses,” Powell explained. “It is imperative that small business owners bear down, concentrate on what works and not take their eyes off the ball. Competing with all the resources available is just good business.”
Powell said the fundamentals of how to make money in the carwash remain the same. The only ways to improve the bottom line of any wash are to bring more cars to the wash or get more money per car. “Re-considering everything from the street signs to the conversations sales people have with clients, will help us reach our sales objectives, while preserving your wash customers,” he stated.
Imagine an improved image
How well your sign can be seen by the passing public will determine its impact on the capture rate of your wash, according to Powell, and it must compete effectively with its environment and stand out from all that surrounds it.
The sign must also be easy to read. “According to experts on aging,” he added, “by the year 2020, 25 percent of motorists on the street will be over the age of 65. The loss of contrast sensitivity, which begins about age 40 and begins a continuum of declining sensitivity, indicates a need for signs that effectively communicate with the visually impaired.”
Powell said that the correct sign design, placement, and size is imperative and must be considered for the most visually-challenged motorist. Sign copy also must have clean, clear contrast that will visually assist driver’s comprehension.
A correctly designed menu will present purchase options in a way that concretely demonstrates the best value for the dollar, Powell said. “Strategically planned menu designs, coupled with supporting graphic sales aids, or custom complimenting graphic screens on the auto cashier, will satisfy the consumers need for understanding the product selections,” he explained. “This style of professional presentation will lead consumers to a feeling of confidence and a feeling of well being, as they spend more.”
Equipment enhancements verses replacements
Carwash equipment is expensive. But, let’s face it; if it’s not working efficiently or effectively, it will cost you more money and your customers might notice their cars aren’t as clean as they could be. Less customers equal less money. And equipment that sucks up energy and water also equals less money.
According to Ryan Beaty, vice president of sales for the Western Region of Mark VII Equipment Inc., today’s carwashes are mainly focused on efficiency, revenue enhancement and marketing. But, he also said that a system which allows for upgrades or retrofits as new technology and improvements come along during the lifecycle of the machine, is becoming more and more attractive to operators and keeps them from buying completely new equipment.
“Efficiencies relate to water, chemical and energy consumption. Water costs alone have risen 30 percent or more in the last five years,” he said. Today’s IBAs, for example, utilize new forms of programmability and variable frequency drives to lower the total cost for operators. Enhancements include automated services like wheel scrubs and tire shiners and help raise the overall average ticket price and improve a wash without breaking the bank.
Market and target the right way
Wash owners and operators are asking for equipment that drives their top line while reducing operating expenses and new technology, particularly from Europe, is emerging here in the U.S. to achieve these needs and goals, according to Beaty.
“Operators are also asking for more assistance when it comes to programs,” Beaty said. “Whether that comes in the form of marketing programs, service and chemical programs or data tracking, today’s operators want to partner with a company that can supply them more than just equipment. It’s these value-added services which allow operators to lean more on the expertise of the manufacturers and distributors versus trying to reinvent the wheel themselves.”
Powell suggested offering multi-layered purchasing opportunities to customers on a consistent basis to improve revenues. “Consistently presenting more than one product, on each visit will improve the odds that more dollars per car will be earned,” he stated. “Planning profitable, less labor intensive, products which are offered after the wash products, are necessary to improve dollars per car.”
How one wash owner makes it work
Michael Balboni owns Manchester Auto Wash, Inc., and added on an IBA three years ago. He is constantly checking for clogged presoak and high pressure tips and making sure that the pay kiosk and IBA are clean and presentable and well lit at all times. “No one wants to pull in a dark dreary cave of a carwash,” Balboni said. “We are onsite 10 hours a day making sure quality from the IBA is at its maximum level.”
Balboni’s advice to other operators is to keep a well manicured and clean lot and bay. “We are in the clean business and keeping everything clean is key … keep your IBA maintained, monitor the quality of the wash and keep your lot picked up and clean.
“People,” he added, “will notice if you are a fanatic about your carwash and know that you are also particular when it comes to the workings of it, too.”