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Increasing Carwash Revenue

Mike Perry will now be a regular blogger for Perry has more than 30 years' experience in retail marketing and in business-to-business sales. He can be reached at 770-330-2490, or at

Revealing today's vital buzzwords

July 20, 2012
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“Location, location, location.”

In an earlier day, when many convenience store operators and self-serve investors were investigating the carwash business, the most successful developers quickly came to appreciate the meaning of the three most important words for any retail business: “Location, location, location.” With some notable exceptions, it was an almost universally accepted doctrine, that a high-volume, highly profitable carwash site could not be developed at a B-level location.

Jump forward 20 years: In 2012, the best operators today must come to appreciate the importance of three different and critical, even game-changing, words in today’s stagnant market: “Revenue, revenue, revenue.” It is true. Nothing is more important today, than carwash operators making more money.

When I entered the carwash market at its peak, in the mid-1990s, carwash owners commonly thought their greatest competition was the other carwash two to three miles down the road. Also, operators and suppliers alike twenty years ago typically believed, that most of their carwash customers were making “impulse purchases.”

We know now, however, that most consumers make buying decisions, even for discretionary purchases like a carwash, before they leave their home or office.

Another important paradigm shift in 2012 for carwash operators is not so easily appreciated: In today’s cash-strapped economy, every retail business in your three to five mile market becomes a genuine competitor. That is why having a clear marketing plan, one put in writing, must be promoted to the top of your “to do” list. In short, carwash operators with the best marketing plans, and the discipline and ability to execute them properly, will be the big winners in our industry.

“Revenue, revenue, revenue” are the vital buzzwords which will prompt you to increase your wash counts, and differentiate your wash from other less successful retailers. Other buzzwords continue to be important, to be sure. “Wash quality” is where any successful carwash must begin. To maximize revenue, “throughput” and “down time” must be measured and monitored, too. Also, for many years, operators and suppliers alike have focused, and rightly so, on reducing operating costs. Yet I rarely have gotten a direct and positive response to this important but often overlooked question: “who takes ownership for your revenues?”

Experienced operators always will call their chemical supplier to improve wash quality issues. When their machine needs service, they know too who to call for a speedy response. But what happens, especially in a staggering economy, when their carwash counts take a dive, and remain flat for several months? To answer that nagging question, operators have very few reputable or industry-tested veterans to seek answers.

Over the next few months, Professional Carwash and Detailing will seek to fill that very troubling yet often overlooked void.

To close, this twice-a-week blog will be dedicated to helping operators learn from other operators and proven industry suppliers to increase their wash counts and revenues. Also, I will be sharing insights and ideas which are working well in other retail businesses. Even at this late date, I continue to believe 2012 will be a breakout year for operators who will make it a top priority to increase their carwash revenues.