Last month I was invited to speak at the first Car Wash Show Europe, held in Amsterdam. This was an interesting show as the main exhibitors came from far afield, mainly America. While there were some intriguing ideas, the manufacturers were really seeking distributors to sell their products, rather than selling at a retail level. It was a shame that some of the European car wash companies had decided not to take part as they missed out on generally good attendance.
Perhaps the most informative part of the event for me was taking part in a discussion about the state of washing in the UK and then having an in-depth talk with six other wash associations spread over three continents.
While countries such as Australia are struggling with a lack of water, the UK stands out as the only country with a declining car wash sector. This is extremely significant as some countries have grown considerably in mechanical washing, while the hand wash sector has grown too. So what is the reasoning behind all this? First, the environmental bodies in these countries are much tougher in regulating any unscrupulous businesses but, more importantly, as proud citizens of that country, they and their customers do not wish to pollute their own environment. They are also much more severe on taxation loss and poor employment practices. It is a sad state of affairs that in the UK we care very little for any of the above and seek only to get something of a bargain.
In America, where car washing has grown the most, they have recognised that cleaning just the outside of the car is not enough any more. Where possible they bolt on a hoovering and dash-clean element.
Closer to home, we took part in a BBC Radio Leeds broadcast which talked about unregulated hand car washes. We were able to put forward our views along with other supporters and retailers that have been affected. Interestingly an anti-slavery charity, Unseen, joined the debate to add another aspect to the bad practices that some of these ’businesses’ employ.
How good then would it be if the customer began to take some responsibility for the cleaning of their car, ensuring the company was legitimate, paid its workers correctly and didn’t pollute. Then, like the other associations around the world, we would have a chance to invest and grow the car wash sector.