Industry performance during a recession - Professional Carwashing & Detailing
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Industry performance during a recession

The professional carwashing and detailing industry’s performance is based on macro trends of the overall economy. Makes sense. When people have well-paying jobs, they have more discretionary funds to spend on things that make them feel good and protect their investments, such as carwashing and detailing. 

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Following this overarching logic, 2020 should have crippled this industry since — within a flash — record job losses across many industries, including carwashing, surfaced and filled the headlines.

But overall, according to the experts, the industry actually grew. And, on the M&A and expansion fronts, investors saw carwashing as an investment beacon of light in the darkness. So, why is logic not matching reality? 

As explained recently in a PC&D Unscripted video interview with Brink Results President Steve Gaudreau, subscription-based plans, including unlimited wash clubs, helped stabilize and retain business for many operators, because the majority of club members “are not the lowest income folks,” which is the group that was hit hardest by the rippling effects of the pandemic, as Gaudreau pointed out. Surely, this was only one of many reasons why operators’ early projections didn’t match year-end actuals last year. Government assistance to businesses and individuals also played a key role in keeping many carwashes afloat.

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Gaudreau and others, including International Carwash Association CEO Eric Wulf, also attributed the industry’s success in 2020 to carwashing being a form of much-needed entertainment, normalcy and distraction during the darkest days of the pandemic.

Related: PC&D Unscripted 23: Updates from ICA

In addition, as Gaudreau and I discussed, operators adjusted and modified their businesses within COVID protocol. Many operators, including several I interviewed last year, did what it took to keep the doors open for their customers and employees. For many, staying open wasn’t all about profitability — it was also about looking out for people during unprecedented times.  

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But, back to the headline at the top of this page. In past recessions, confirmed Gaudreau, the carwash industry (especially the full-serve segment) was affected to a great degree. However, he added, during the Great Recession over a decade ago, the industry was able to weather the storm a little better, since many operators at that time had already started to switch wash models from full-serve to express exterior.

Is professional carwashing recession-proof? Maybe “recession-resistant” is a better phrase, since few industries are completely unaffected from periods of economic setbacks. Still, let’s hope we don’t have to find out anytime soon. If wash clubs’ popularity and express exterior’s performance during recent decades remain true, from my viewpoint, this industry should continue to fare better than most.  

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View the entire video interview with Steve Gaudreau below.

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