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LAS VEGAS -- Not exactly associated with environmental stewards, car-wash operators must clean up their act -- and their operations -- to broaden consumer appeal.
This underscoring message of environmental responsibility and delivering cleanliness pervaded this year's Car Care World Expo, sponsored last week by the International Carwash Association.
The annual event, which drew some 10,000 retailers and operators and more than 300 exhibitors to the Las Vegas Convention Center, also effused with new technologies, from high-tech entrance payment systems to enhanced robotic-style car washes and stately water reclamation systems.
"You need to tell your customers an environmentally friendly message because your customers want to feel good coming to you," said Neil Hitchcock, president of car-wash chain Oasis Development & Management LTD. Citing upgrades in water reclamation, he added, "Customers want to know we are water savers, we're good environmental stewards."
Hitchcock and Jerry Truelove of Jim Coleman Co. Inc. headlined a session called "Trends and Techniques in the In-bay/Petroleum/Convenience Store Market."
The two stressed the importance of producing operations driven on customer-appealing architecture, such as glass washes, which promote openness and safety, as well as landscaping, vibrant signage and easy access points. They also touted the need to offer multiple shopping attractions. "You need multiple sources of income," said Hitchcock. "Gas and car wash isn't going to do it."
Hitchcock and Truelove also submitted several marketing tips including:
* Promote and banner deluxe washes, not the basic offering.
* Halt discounted washes -- retailers just give away free money without necessarily building customer loyalty.
* Offer charity car-washes -- work with schools, civic groups.
* Avail multiple payment choices, from cash and tokens to loyalty cards and credit/debit.
ABOVE: Julie Baudhuin, of PDQ, demonstrates the company's new Access Customer Management System, which features multiple payment options.