New profits from new products
Greeting cards and impulse items can attract customers and increase interest in lobby sales.
Unearthing more ways to make money is always a good thing, especially in today’s cryptic carwash business. Operators all over the world have learned that every dollar counts. And, in the interest of offering customers even more selections, now may be the time to uncover new products that can be placed in your carwash.
Owners have long known about the advantages of cold sodas and carwash supplies. Today, there are a number of new products that carwashes can add to provide even more ancillary revenue. From impulse items (see sidebar) to greeting cards, these offerings can easily fit in any carwash lobby or sales area.
Sure, it can be a bit intimidating to pry apart the business plan and sell products that do not involve suds and soap. But, honestly, no drastic changes are needed. In the grand scheme of things, a carwash can still provide customers a comfortable waiting area. The only real difference will be the oodles of high-profit products displayed right within the customer’s reach.
Though the first automated carwashes appeared decades ago, it took several years for greeting card companies to take notice. Eventually, they figured out that these types of washes were great venues to sell product in, according to Scott Austin, president of SNAFU Designs Inc.
Greeting cards have proven to be a good product choice for carwashes because they are very popular and are always in demand. Every day, millions of people in the U.S. are having birthdays, and approximately 7 billion cards are purchased by consumers in this country every year, Austin said.
“When you consider the potential sales per square foot that a greeting card display offers, it is really a no brainer that most stores should carry them,” Austin explained. “Individually a card is relatively inexpensive, so people rarely think twice about buying a card if they like it or need one.”
Carwashes actually have an advantage over other retailers when it comes to selling greeting cards, Austin stated. Unlike the crowded aisles of a drug store, a grocery store or a gift shop, most carwashes only have one waiting area for the customer. Every customer who enters this area would see the cards on display making it easy for them to browse and buy greeting cards.
“It’s a generalization that’s true, women love greeting cards — they buy an estimated 80 percent of all cards sold each year,” Austin said. “And carwashes are a great place to sell a card to a man who is often in need of a card at the last minute. As long as you have this captive audience, why not sell them some cards?”
All greeting card companies or distributors will provide display racks for their greeting cards, and they usually offer several different options, Austin explained. Greeting card companies will normally provide greeting card signage to stores as well. Austin’s company provides a sign for the top of the display rack, and their greeting card orders always include an eye-catching wall or window poster. These signs and posters visually promote the fact that a carwash is now carrying a fun line of greeting cards.
The best place to install the greeting card display is in the areas where customers naturally congregate, Austin said. This can be close to a sitting area, by the window where customers watch their car being washed or near the cash register where the line of paying customers usually forms.
Austin noted that the main key to whether greeting cards will be a success in a carwash is how neat and tidy the display is kept. If the appearance of the card display is messy and unorganized, customers will not even look at the cards. Thus, it is important for an employee to take a few minutes each week to straighten up the cards and display rack.
“You can start selling greeting cards for as little as $100,” Austin said. “Most card companies have a variety of different sized display fixtures from which to choose.”
If a carwash owner would like to select the cards themselves, greeting card companies provide catalogs featuring all the designs in the card line. If not, often owners can order a “bestseller package.” Here, the card company will consult with the carwash owner on the size of the order he or she would like to place, Austin said.
Greeting card orders are usually shipped from the card manufacturer to a business via UPS or FedEx. If an account is outside of the contiguous U.S. — Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, etc. — the U.S. Postal Service is often used.
The most popular card category is birthday cards, Austin revealed. Birthday cards should make up at least half of the cards a business offers customers because they make up 60 percent of the cards given each year. Regarding holidays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are the two that generate the most card sales for retailers.
While Austin has not heard of carwashes offering any sort of holiday greeting card promotional program, he said one could be put together easily. One example he described would be offering a customer two free greeting cards of their choice with the purchase of a carwash. This would equate to a $5.50 value. “There are a lot of ways one could incorporate the greeting cards they carry to promote their carwash,” he said.