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Impluse vending at the conveyorized carwash

October 11, 2010
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The new trend toward exterior-only conveyor washes without lobbies provides an additional profit center opportunity for an investment in the so-called ‘automatic glass-front’ vendors for impulse sales at these washes.

Sales of car care products, fragrances, snacks, soda, bottled water and much more are all possible with the latest technology used in these vendors.

Since the customer does not leave the car as it goes through the tunnel, the only opportunity to utilize this type of vendor for impulse sales is at the vacuum islands provided on site.

When planning a vending profit center at an exterior wash, the operator needs to do some serious thinking about how to integrate the vending into the master plan of the operation and maximize its profits and efficiency.

These vending goals and procedures need to be given serious thought before deciding how you want to invest.

Location & signage
Location of the vending center should be within easy walking distance of the vacuum islands and very visible.

Good signage is a must to help your customer. The word “impulse” should be priority in choosing this location.

What products do you want to offer to customers?

Some popular choices are:

  • Car Care products;
  • Sodas;
  • Towels;
  • Fragrances;
  • Snacks;
  • Candy; and
  • Bottled water.

You can vend almost any size package that can fit in the vendor. Wash owners have been successful in vending package sizes from fragrance trees to quarts of oil.

Paper or plastic?
It is not necessary that the vendor be near a bill changer, since the vendor can take any mix of bills, coin, credit cards, tokens and also make change.

Make sure to carefully consider the types of payment you routinely accept at your wash when setting up your vendor.

Security and protection
Security, including protection from weather and vandalism, is a priority for trouble-free operation of the vending machine.

Whether the vendor is installed against a wall, through a wall or free-standing, the appropriate security cabinet, security door, control panel mask and window protection needs to be included in the planning process.

Guaranteed delivery systems
The best automatic vendors now come with systems that protect the customer from being cheated out of money when a product does not drop. We’ve all had that experience!

Since the vendor operates unattended, this is a necessary feature for a successful vending operation.

Make sure to carefully consider this option when choosing your vending machine.

Vendor software
New vendors with the most versatility and latest technology all use a system of software with Multi-Drop Bus or MDB.

This is standard in the vending industry for all new vendors. It means that an operator can mix and match different bill validators, coin changers, credit card readers, etc., without regards to brand name.

This is opposite what is usually done in the carwash business, where each brand is proprietary and wants a captive buyer. Older software systems are being phased out by manufacturers, so don’t get caught buying an outdated system.

Merchandising features
The automatic glass-front vendors allow visual selection of car care products and capitalize on the customer’s impulsive nature to purchase the products.

The exterior concept does not include the usual lobby area for sale of impulse items, so the exterior operator does not have many options left to choose.

One can go with the older drop shelf systems that have been around for years. These systems usually have limited visibility and selections for the customer.

A second option is a newer vending system. These systems merchandise the products better and afford the most versatility in payment options.

Pricing it out
Operators should carefully consider all of these options to make an informed decision on vending procedures at the exterior wash. There is an automatic vending machine system for every imaginable wash and customer out there.

These systems are not inexpensive, but the potential for sales volume is good and very profitable. Experience over the past years has indicated that sales volumes can be increased 200–400 percent by using a newer vending system instead of a conventional drop-box machine.

The operator will be happy with the extra sales volume and customer satisfaction will increase at the site which, in turn, leads to repeat business.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

James H. Holve is the owner of Big Eagle Enterprise, dba as ShurVendPlus. He is also the owner of three self-serve carwash sites. To contact James for more information, e-mail him at

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