Most people would agree that the changing face of UK car washing over the past decade or so has been caused by the influx of migrants from the EU the best estimates put the figure at 2.2 million.
First the Polish came over, but recently it has been other eastern European countries that have stirred up the hornets nest of hand versus mechanical washing.
On the good side many provide an excellent service of interior and exterior cleaning, which is undoubtedly what many customers are looking for. But the bad side can be really bad. Slavery conditions for workers, non payment of taxes, skirting payments to councils and damaging the environment, are just some of the accusations levelled at these rogue businesses. At least now we have a Prime Minister who appears keen to do something positive, as many more government departments have recently been talking to us about these problems. With the Brexit vote still very much in people’s minds, its success in my view was driven by the immigration issue. One might think that these problem traders will disappear, but they won’t, as the prize is simply too valuable to let go. The only solution is sustained government action from all sides, driving unregulated car washes from our country. Of course, we can help in that job by not using these services, but hey, if I can get my car cleaned at half price, well then that’s a good thing for me.
Well what of the remaining mechanical market? It’s actually doing rather well for itself. I hear of major groups investing in new washes. These and others look at the return on investment and so long as you have the space it stacks up. Unfortunately one result of our impending split from Europe is that this investment has just jumped up in price because of the weakness of the pound. Let’s hope that is a temporary situation.
Excitingly, from next month, I will have a further tool in my armoury to be able to identify new potential business. In conjunction with the ANPR on my forecourt logging registrations as customers fill up, my staff can see how many times a customer has used us in the past three months for fuel and also their wash usage. The opportunity is there for us to set rules around promotions tailored to existing and new business. All we have to do is make it work for us in a way that poorly invested outlets can’t.