Over the last few years, carwashes have struggled in the economic recession, but it seems our sister industry, the convenience store and gasoline market, has held strong. As Managing Editor Deb Gorgos found in her article, “C-store, see profits,”, the c-store industry represents a real opportunity for carwash operators who are focused on offering their customers convenience and selection.Randy Coleman, vice president of Jim Coleman, Co.(JCC), a manufacturer of self-serve and in-bay automatic carwash systems and equipment, has been at the forefront of this trend. He recently sat down with PC&D and explained how the c-store industry has buoyed his company and where he thinks the market is headed in the future.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Can you explain when JCC first noticed the “golden age” of IBA carwashing was coming to an end?
Randy Coleman: In 2005, after 13 years of double-digit growth in sales, we were caught in a wave of challenges due to the economy. The rising cost of fuel and raw materials, on the heels of a minor recession and a dip in employment, meant we were operating with tighter profit margins than ever before.
At the same time, the self-serve carwash industry, the backbone of Jim Coleman Co., was also changing. The consumer wanted to wash their car faster and cheaper than ever before and convenience was key.
PC&D: When you noticed the trend, how did you react?
RC: To succeed, one must change and all three Coleman boys, Russell, Wayne and I, knew that because as tots we grew up watching our father, Jim Coleman, run his first carwash. Dad started making the equipment to improve the quality of the wash at his own site and then started selling that equipment to others in the industry.
We’ve also adapted to change and trends in the industry. In 1996 we put our sights on the electronics portion of the business and in 1998 we developed an in-bay automatic line. In 2005, we purchased Hanna Carwash Systems in order to manufacture full conveyor and express tunnel equipment and expand even more throughout the carwash industry.
After a two-year period of modest growth, we started looking to the future for opportunities of growth and turned to the c-store and gas station industry.
PC&D: How has your move into the c-store arena helped the company?
RC: Expanding into the c-store market, for example ,was a good idea, as fueling and carwashing has always been a very good mix and has been a worthwhile opportunity during this tough economy.
Not too long ago, we expanded our c-store profit center even more and developed Mr. Zippy’s Express Ice and Water, a free-standing kiosk that delivers both purified water and purified ice directly to the consumer without being touched by human hands.
People such as construction workers, plumbers, landscapers, etc. can bring refillable containers to fill up on water and then go into the c-store for snacks to get them through the day. The consumer is then able to fill up their gas tanks, up gas tanks, coolers and buy snack items and they like that they can do all simultaneously.
PC&D: How do you see the c-store market shaping your company in the future?
RC: While we are still deeply involved in driving our company’s carwash business forward, we are clearly excited to expand into the c-store industry as well. There are a lot of opportunities within each c-store as well and a lot of customers looking for more convenience during tough economic times.