Happy Holidays! What’s that? The holidays are months away, you say? Tell that to your local malls, big box stores and TV ads.

It’s still September as I write this, but mark my word, by the time it goes to print, you’ll be seeing toy ads, spotting holiday decorations and hearing Christmas carols everywhere you go.

Ok, you say. You agree that the holidays are thrust upon us much too early, but why am I writing about it? Simple. You are competing for holiday spending with everyone else, so you need to begin your advertising as well — or run the chance of being a day late and a dollar short when it comes to your holiday pre-paid sales.

Contrary to what you may hear on television or read online, the economy still hasn’t fully recovered from the recession of a few years ago. In fact, it has been the slowest recovery from a recession since the Great Depression. Discretionary income has to be fought for! Are you going to let the Lowes, Fridays, Macy’s, or TJ Maxxes of the world beat you to the holiday trough?

I’m not suggesting you go all out with your holiday decorations before the end of summer (most folks I know get more than a little perturbed when they get bombarded with holly and mistletoe in September), but there should be some kind of reminder to your customers that holiday gift cards are always available.

In October, signage should sit atop your pay stations with pumpkin or Halloween-themed décor. As November rolls around, perhaps we go to Thanksgiving-mode and have a pilgrim holding up a reminder that “Carwashes make great gifts.” The day after Thanksgiving (the day the holiday season used to officially begin), you can go full-court press on the lights, Santa hats, decorated trees, etc. By transitioning from one holiday to the next instead of going all in for the December holidays too early, you are making the customer aware of the offer without alienating them. Plus, your decorations won’t be stale by the time December 25th rolls around.

We’ve all heard the expression, “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s true! Think about it. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: They pull in to get a quick wash. When at the pay station, they are offered the choice of washes. They choose the wash they want, swipe their credit cards, and off they go. Now, replay the scenario: They pull into their pay station. They choose their wash but are then prompted to buy a prepaid “holiday gift card,” putting the gift idea into their mind. You won’t sell many unless you ask for the order! They see your decorations and signage suggesting that they purchase a gift for themselves or others. Subtle reminders can also be placed in the vac area and on the gate arms themselves. Worst-case scenario, you have planted a seed for subsequent visits.

If you plan to get your “unfair share” of the holiday shopping dollar from your customers, you have to remember who the competition is these days — virtually everyone. You have to level the playing field. Don’t get beat to the punch. Start when they start. Decorate appropriately. Ask for the order.

By starting early, you can sell a record amount of prepaid washes this year and truly make this holiday season the most wonderful time of the year.

Bob Fox has over 30 years of industry experience and is an instructor at CarWash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected] For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.

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