Well, the summer seems to have come and gone all too quickly, but this year has seen car wash revenues increase for the first time in many years. Is it just the weather, or are we winning the battle against the rogue hand washes? Perhaps it is just that the rogue washes have become legitimate and their prices have had to increase, making the uneven playing field level again.
While this has been going on, what has been happening at the forecourts which used to provide the mainstay of the car washing industry? It is a very different industry which competes in 2014. The oil majors who used to build sites with tried and tested wash and vacuum facilities have all but disappeared, and those that are left have given up on reinvestment.
Supermarkets, faced with little volume growth prospect, may start to look at fuel retailing as a profit centre, rather than a loss leader. Thankfully most independents have looked to the shop to drive our industry forward. Well-known food brands and symbol groups adorn our locations reaching out to attract today’s modern shopper. If it’s coffee, a quality sandwich or tonight’s tea many sites have that well covered.
But there are companies who have also quietly retained, smartened, branded and focused their washing facilities on today’s market. They have proved that car washing on a forecourt still has its place. Younger drivers also have a pride in the upkeep of their cars that we felt in our youth. Perhaps they have a larger budget than we had to keep their cars polished? The time has come to embrace the young driver market. Communication is the key to this. The mobile phone will drive the decision of this generation, whether it is shopping, purchasing fuel, or keeping their pride and joy ready for the weekend action. All of this must be marketed and sold via their smartphone, as bits of paper just make the car, wallet or purse untidy.
Most customers utilising our contactless payment system don’t want a receipt. It is a quick in and out.
We can make our sites youth-friendly in the way that they purchase fuel, buy goods and keep their cars clean and tidy. I do not see wash facilities disappearing, we just need to make them fit for purpose for tomorrow’s tech-savvy consumer.