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Multi-profit Centers

Vending success

October 11, 2010
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As many operators know, vending can be a great source of additional revenue for carwash operations. Items such as drying towels, vehicle protectants, tire cleaners, window cleaners and fragrance items are now almost a required offering at most carwash facilities.

Vending products can be sold through drop shelf or clear front machines at self-serve and automatic washes or through counter rack display shelves at full serve and conveyor washes. Complete vending islands are also another way to easily sell and promote these impulse sales items.

Something to also keep in mind is that many manufactures offer free decals and start-up products with the purchase of a new vending machine. Many times this free product can nearly cover the capital cost of the machine.

Product offerings
To a certain extent, the more items you make available to customers, the more potential for sales. With proper offerings and good promotion, you can teach your customers to come to your facilities for their impulse cleaning items. This keeps them from supporting the convenient store or big box store down the street for their car care needs.

At a minimum, the following items should be offered for complete and effective vending sales:
  • Drying Towels. Available in paper or fabric construction. Offering both types is beneficial. Paper-type towels tend to be more absorbent and work well on glass and windows. Fabric-type towels are not as absorbent but tend to be a stronger towel for body and moldings. The sales ratios tend to show an equal amount of both are sold. Cotton as well as microfiber drying towels are also gaining in popularity and can be easily reused by the car owner.
  • Interior Protectants. These products are offered in either sponge pack or spray on solution. This is a product group that has grown to become almost as popular as drying towels and is a requirement for a complete vending offering.
  • Vehicle Fragrances. It is really amazing how many of these types of products are sold. Trees and Leafs are the most popular but a wide variety of products are available from vent hangers to spray bottles.
  • Window Cleaners. Another popular product that should not be over looked. Usually offered in a solution-filled towelette. Great for cleaning windshields, mirrors and lights.
As a general rule, most operators try to at least double their item cost in the resale pricing of their vending items. However, some products may allow more or less margin than this depending on competition in specific markets.

Single column, drop shelf machines only allow for pricing in quarter increments with a top-end price of either $1 or $3.50 depending on the coin mechanism in the machine.

Clear front, multi-product machines allow for an almost infinite range of prices as required.

Most manufacturers of vending products are more than willing to supply promotional help in your selling of their products. Free goods, machine decals, product samples and even handouts are readily available through your vending distributor.

Location and promotion on the actual wash lot is also important. Vending islands are available if room exists on the site. These islands can hold up to 12- or 16-drop shelf machines and usually have canopies to protect the vendors from the weather. Monies from these machines can drop into safes or vaults in the island to protect against vandalism and theft.

Clear front machines are also becoming very popular. These units can easily vend 30-40 different product selections giving the customer a wide range of car care options. With these machines, the customer also has the ability to see the actual product in size, shape and colorful packaging.

Another benefit to the clear front machines is that they can be purchased with chiller or refrigerator options for offering candy and soda products in addition to the standard vehicle product offerings.

Stainless steel drop-shelf machines have been around for decades. These units come in one, three or five product offering designs. With these machines, it is best to keep all of them located in one area if at all possible. Many times if they can be located near the bill changers, impulse sales will increase.

Washes with four, six or even eight of these machines are not uncommon. Remember, the more products you have to offer, the more likely you are to become the source of choice for your customer’s vending needs.

If your vendor options need an upgrade, don’t wait. Your customers are buying and using these items now, it might as well be your wash where they spend those impulse dollars.

Mike Hansen is the wash division manager and a partner with Dultmeier Sales in Omaha, NE.

Mike has been active in the carwash industry for nearly 25 years and is a former president of the Heartland Car Wash Association as well as a former board member of the International Carwash Association.

Mike can be reached at 800-228-966 or

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