New for this year, Professional Carwashing & Detailing combined its conveyor/tunnel, in-bay automatic (IBA) and self-serve surveys into one comprehensive survey. The response from our audience was overwhelming, and we thank the carwash professionals who took the time out of their busy day, or night, to complete our questionnaires and offer great feedback that will benefit the entire industry.

Noteworthy survey results

Last year, in an article titled “Carwash market update,” we spoke with several carwash professionals with decades’ worth of experience in the industry. Many noted that the professional carwashing industry was experiencing a lot of growth in 2015; this trend was supported and continued into this year, according to our 2016 survey.

Seventy-two percent of this year’s survey respondents noted achieving greater or much greater car counts in 2015 compared to 2014. Also, according to our survey, 73 percent added that their total revenue was greater or much greater in 2015 compared to 2014. Furthermore, 64 percent of survey respondents expect their 2016 revenue to increase over their 2015 revenue.

According to Robert Andre, vice president of training and education for SONNY’S The CarWash Factory, in last year’s article, “Over the next three to five years we will continue to see tremendous growth in the carwash industry for two reasons: new investors entering the market and current owners looking to expand.”

Beyond the results

For several questions in this year’s survey, we sought additional responses from readers. For instance in the question “What is included in your best-selling packages?” while sealer wax lead the list with 79 percent, some “other” responses were not included in our list of options.

Some of the other services and products that respondents’ feature in their best-selling packages include:

  • Hot wax
  • Spray wax
  • Door jam cleaning
  • Dashboard cleaning
  • Glass cleaning
  • Lava bath
  • Soap and pressure prewash.

When we asked our self-serve participants “Which of the following services are offered at your self-serve bays?” while foaming brush lead the pack with 88 percent, some “other” responses included:

  • Undercarriage wash
  • Tri foam brush
  • Tri foam wax
  • Snow foam.

Navigating our survey

We hope that you enjoy our industry benchmark survey and find it useful for adjusting and planning your operations in the future. Be sure to review our updated results and market report, which will be available later this year.

As previously mentioned, this survey was completed by conveyor/tunnel, IBA and self-serve carwash owners, managers, CEOs and presidents. Some of the questions featured in the survey were asked to all groups where commonalities and interests were the same or similar. However, some of the questions were strictly asked to the specific carwash model that best matched a respondent’s carwash.

We have added notes and indications throughout the survey pages for such factors as multiple selections allowed and carwash model-specific questions.

Also, in order to make our survey more viewer friendly and modern, we have included several infographics throughout this year’s survey. Similar to all those we create and feature in PC&D and on Carwash.com, these infographics will also be posted in our digital archives at www.carwash-digital.com/issues for you to share with partners, employees and customers.

Four steps to stay competitive

Attending trade shows and reviewing market research are important for owners and operators in this industry to see how they stack up against their peers. However, there are other ways to remain competitive in the professional carwash industry.

According to Jason Sears, communications manager for Innovative Control Systems (ICS), trade magazines, such as PC&D, “provide great insights, whether you are a new operator or an industry veteran.”

However, continues Sears, besides subscribing to and reading PC&D, here are four important steps that can help any operator stay competitive:

  • Fine-tune your competitive radar. Are your numbers down? Are your regulars not so regular anymore? If so, where are those customers going? Spending a few bucks on some informal market research may provide you with the answers to those important questions. Review your competitors’ sites, and compare how your wash stacks up in terms of the total customer experience — not just wash quality. Look at the competitors’ washes through the customer’s eyes — not as an operator — and make the adjustments that will allow your site to stand out from the competition.
  • Invest in carwash management tools that help you monitor and analyze all aspects of your operation. This is especially important if you run multiple sites. But performance data is only helpful if you capture it, analyze it and make informed decisions based on that data. Missing just one of these three key steps will eliminate the value locked up in your performance data, so be thorough.
  • Invest your time and money to attend industry trade shows. Seeing old friends, making new contacts and staying informed on recent advancements in our industry are important. There is a whole lot of knowledge on the trade show floor, at the information sessions and the tours of other successful operators’ sites. Do not squander these opportunities to enhance your business by learning from the success of others.
  • Build relationships with the right suppliers — especially suppliers that have your success in mind. Trust carwash professionals who demonstrate that they want you to win, and can do so by sharing their knowledge and experience to get you into the winner’s circle.

Thank you again to the respondents for taking the time to complete our survey, and thanks to everyone for reading PC&D magazine. You can find an inside look at the survey results, featured in our June issue, here.