The mood was subdued. The shoppers were serious. And the traffic was lighter than years passed, but steady. In a way, Car Care World Expo 2010™ matched the current state of carwashing across the country: A little stagnant, but sanguine.
There were still smiles on the floor, and lots of handshaking and idea sharing, but mostly one was struck by how few exhibitor personnel were walking around in matching shirts and teal badges. At a time when corporate America is still criticized for its excesses, it was heartening to see that carwashing’s larger OEMs had taken their own advice.
I’m not celebrating the fact that many companies have been forced to downsize and now occupy smaller booth spaces and truck in less equipment to display, but I think it’s fitting that while they’ve been telling clients to start cutting back; they had, too. I know the International Carwash Association (ICA) is eager to see its attendance numbers climb — especially the exhibitor count — but for now I think it’s healthy that our industry has adjusted to the economic downturn. It may be painful, but today’s lean companies are better adjusted for future growth.
Speaking of taking your own medicine, I had a short conversation with Paul Fazio, president of SONNY’S, on the show floor and he echoed those sentiments. Fazio had only the other day hired a show consultant originally provided by the ICA to all exhibitors and implemented his advice directly. The idea that SONNY’S, one of the biggest and best in our industry, is still continually trying to improve its brand and seeking outside advice and expertise is an excellent metaphor for all carwash businesses. Even those who are successful can’t rest on their laurels; especially now.
For all of this, I would say the real buzz on the floor was around the chemical companies which introduced a plethora of new products for adding dollars per car, maintaining the momentum of the green movement, and reducing costs related to shipping. These companies recognize that the key to growth for the carwash industry should be addressed on two fronts: First, to address the cost of doing business (i.e. shipping costs), and second, to offer more and better services for customers.
For its part, the ICA remained positive and expressed its satisfaction with the show in a press release which focused on the increased percentage of educational session attendance as well as size of the show floor.
“Car Care World Expo was not only a success in terms of numbers and growth, but in the overall energy and enthusiasm felt throughout the trade show floor, in education sessions and during networking events,” said Eric Wulf, CAE, executive director and CEO.
“As carwash businesses continue to rebound from a challenging year, the more than 5,000 professionals in attendance couldn’t help but feel more optimistic about the future of their businesses and the industry.”
As one of those professionals, I couldn’t agree more.