Over the past few decades, various types of vending machines have found homes at carwashes of all ilk and designs. From glass-front vendors with dozens of products to traditional soda machines to specialized ice islands, a number of profit-making vending ventures have proven especially enticing to carwash owners. Below, four people from the vending industry answered our questions and provided pertinent information for interested carwash owners.
Carwash customized: Becky Kube, owner of Kube Enterprises, said that now is the “best of times” when it comes to carwash vending because there are so many options available in the market. Owners can use drop-shelf electronic and drop-shelf mechanical machines that are still affordable. If an operator has a large wash, he or she can buy a glass front vendor that will hold 30 to 40 products. As vending machines became more and more popular in the carwash environment, companies began manufacturing these large glass-front vending machines sized specifically for carwash products.
Picking product first: Vending machine purchases should be made based on the types of products a carwash wants to sell. “I try to guide my customers to the basics,” Kube explained. “And you need to decide the products you’re going to sell before you decide on the vending machine … they go hand in hand.”
Popular items: The first product a carwash owner needs, according to Kube, is some kind of a towel. Towels can be made from paper, cotton, terry, microfiber or even a diaper. The next basic product is a glass cleaner. After a wash, the outside of a car should be clean, and this product allows customers to clean the interior as well. The third product is some kind of a tire protectant. Customers will use this product to add shine to dashboards and tires. The fourth recommended product offering is a fragrance. These can be either the cardboard fragrances that drivers hang on their rear-view mirrors or the 2-oz. spray pump bottles.
Introducing ice vending: One new vending option that many carwash owners are investing in is on-site ice vending. Ron Dyer with Ice & Water Vendors, LLCsaid these vendors offer purified ice and cold water with easy point-of-use sales. Ice and cold water have proven especially popular with boaters, RV campers and commercial trade traffic including roofers, construction workers and landscapers.
Why ice vending is popular: “Vending machines offer an innovative way to buy ice and water,” Jeff Dyson, vice president of sales with Kooer Ice Inc., said. “They are quick and appealing to the consumer and offer a unique convenience. The machines are sharp and clean looking … and they will attract attention to the location.”
Ice profit margins: The main factors that will affect an owner’s profit margin using an ice vendor will be pricing; water and electrical costs; the interest rate on the ice machine; and, of course, sales. And, having a convenient, well thought out and highly-visible location is a critical factor in an owner’s sales. With some basic marketing strategies to raise consumer awareness, an ice vending unit also can help bring new customers to the carwash. “Because most carwashes have invested in placing their businesses in high-visibility locations, these units are an ideal fit for carwash owners,” Dyson said.
Defeating delivery: Ice vending offers an operator a better profit margin than delivered ice. Dyer noted that traditional ice delivery services have to include the cost of labor intensive operations as well as fuel expenses from delivery vehicles. On-site, vended ice eliminates these costs and helps improves profits.
Ice capacity: The production capability of the ice maker and the storage capacity of the bin inside the machine will dictate how much ice can be sold to the consumer, Dyson explained. When selecting an ice vendor, consideration should be given to the owner’s prospective market and location to best determine the unit that will meet the location’s production needs.
Vending security: Many product vending machines made for the outdoor carwash environment today are high security, and they will operate in all types of weather, according to Phil Masters, national accounts manager with Fawn Vendors.These vendors are specially built and completely tested for years of use in the outside environment. The key is displaying the products behind Lexan, a polycarbonate front which is high-security and requires no type of a cage system.
No cash needed: Another thing that is attractive about modern vendors is that they have adapted to cashless payment methods. In addition to accepting coins, tokens and cash, credit card and debit card readers can also be installed on many vendors, Masters said.
Ice options: The same is true for ice vendors, Dyer stated. Payment acceptance methods here include card readers, currency validators and coin mechanisms. The machines accommodate sales 24-hours daily, including holidays, nights and weekends, with no attendant needed. Certain machines even boast four separate pay stations — two water vending windows and two ice vending windows. Ice vendor awnings can also be equipped with an exterior lighting package for safe and secure night-time sales.
Easy upkeep: Maintenance on most ice vending machines is usually comprised of simple items such as replenishing the bags and emptying the cash. These are mostly straightforward activities that are easy to perform once an owner becomes familiar with the machine’s operation, Dyson said.