If your car wash is poorly maintained or functioning improperly, it’ll be dead in the water in no time.
“First of all, make sure that the car wash itself is functioning and in good shape,” said Mark Thorsby, executive director of the International Car Wash Association in Chicago. “Oftentimes, c-store guys—particularly when the wash is in conjunction with gas—don’t always pay good attention to the functioning.”
Beyond that, retailers should keep their site impeccable, keeping up on the paint job, litter, lighting and other aesthetics. Marketing and promotions also play a huge role in attracting customers, whether it’s holiday promotions, seasonal savings, in-store purchase-based promotions or other creative combinations.
Ultimately, it comes down to giving customers what they pay for.
“What we are selling is clean, and in my mind it really doesn’t matter if the price is $3 or $4,” said Paul Vercollone, vice president of the 21-store Massachusetts chain VERC Enterprises. “If you’re not ending up with a clean car you might go someplace once, but you’re not going to go back.”
Even some nontraditional operators are investing in the car wash business. Procter & Gamble is testing nearly a dozen Mr. Clean Performance Car Washes in Ohio and Kentucky.
Identified by 36 key buyers from 36 chains that participated in this segment of the 2009 CSD Brand Preference Study, top performers in the car wash market were Mark VII Equipment Inc., Ryko Manufacturing and PDQ Manufacturing Inc. Ecolab Inc. and Autec Inc. were also chosen as honorable mentions.