Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Adding value to your self-serve vending

October 11, 2010

Success in vending sales is the result of a good vending location combined with a variety of items to offer. Even with this knowledge, many self-serve operators still set a small budget for their vending inventory, which typically stands as an ancillary profit source.

What can be done to increase the profitably of this smaller feature that's part of the self-service carwashing experience?

Straying from the norm

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, vending simply meant vacuums and towel distribution areas.

Now, a variety of companies offer multiple product options for vending and many carwash equipment manufacturers have a version of an outdoor vending system that is either a traditional drop-shelf model or an electronic, glass-faced vendor.

With so much to choose from, most operators simply stay with the industry standards that consistently sell.

On the other side of the carwash token exists the carwash owner that's constantly trying to measure the purchasing habits from self-serve customers in an effort to keep what's offered fresh.

It doesn't take market research to find out that customers typically make purchases — either in a retail market or otherwise — based on their familiarly with brand names, and eye-catching advertising.

The usual suspects contained at self-serve vending machines include:

  • Dry towels
  • Window cleaners
  • Protectants
  • Pre-packaged and liquid fragrances
Dollars and scents

According to the 2005 Professional Carwashing & Detailing Self-Serve Benchmarking Survey, the average monthly revenue from all vending machines is $483.37.

To help increase this amount, operators should stay focused on what sells better in their areas, according to Becky Kube, president of Q.B. Enterprises, Inc., Culpeper, VA.

Kube's company operates under the trademark QuickDry, and the company's product testing has shown that a number of different customer bases tend to react differently to vending items, such as car fragrances.

Just because a certain product is a top-sell at one carwash does not mean it will sell at a vending machine that's across town, Kube said. But ultimately, she added, the more items offered, the more opportunities exist for profit.

Therefore, it's a good idea to start with the basic vending options, and try a new item that you think will strike the attention of your customer base.

For something like car scents, which are offered in a large variety, try including different scents in areas you think they'd work best or what might work better depending on the time of year.

Keep an open mind

This year's Self-Serve Benchmarking Survey also noted that 18.8 percent of respondents said they offer air inflation for their patrons' vehicles, and 45.8 percent said they have separate machines that vend snacks and soda on-site.

These unconventional products offer variety, but also consider adding your own unique products alongside the standards, such as:

Dog treats — The rise in carwashes that are adding pet wash basins to their line of service supports this addition.

Operators may want to consider adding dog treats or other small items for pets to their machines. The treats could be bought for a lower cost in bulk and bagged accordingly.

Bundled tokens — Offering a packet of tokens might also draw the customer's attention to your vending machine.

Simply bag however many tokens you'd like to be placed in a vending slot to offer a bundled deal.

Weather-related items — These would include small applicator bottles of something like RainX for wet, spring seasons, or de-icing solution during the winter time.

This designated slot on the vending machine would also suit bug removers for Love Bug season, or another specialty cleaner like a sap removal solution.

Vending sells convenience

Choosing an area for your vending machines can be crucial to the success of the offering.

But vending in any market has always begged the question,"why would any customer pay top dollar for a product that they can get in a retail store for less?"

Keith Dilling, president of the Dallas-based vending machine distributor Dilling & Dilling and operator of six self-serve carwashes around the area, said the best way to promote vending sales it to place your changers next to the vending machines.

This arrangement is both convenient for the customer and beneficial for you because it will make the vending materials impulse items.

In fact you'll virtually be selling convenience to a customer base that's expecting single use, self-service products that they get to choose only for specific needs.