Car Care Expo 2008 (Orlando, FL) - Trend of the Show

I went to the Car Car Expo and spent a lot of time talking to wash owners and operators about their goals, their dreams, and started looking at what this years trends were.

1) Multi-location owners; This year more than any other I found more wash operators that had 2 or more locations that were looking to do several things to make them more successful.

a) Remote Monitoring - These owners were looking for a retrofit solution that would provide them with accurate wash counts, cash intake, chemical monitoring, credit card auditing, and ways in which to bring 'Big Brother' into their business and keep the honest employees honest.

b) Multi-site Loyalty Promotions - The wash owners that had multiple sites were looking for a way to leverage the many wash locations. There were a number of highly successful car wash operators in attendance this year and they made it VERY clear that the only way to maximize profit potential was to 'link' the multiple locations together under a unified loyalty program. Whether this was a prepaid gift card program or a commercial fleet management solution that could be pitched to the local city and large business accounts. These were the tools that were being sought after.

2) Credit Card Acceptance Retrofits; I don't want to seem like a complete broken record, but HEY it's 2008 and consumers are being very vocal about their desire to use their credit card at the wash according to nearly 3/4 of the people I spoke with. I suppose the most common thing I heard at the show was, "I know I need to do SOMETHING, I just don't know what direction to go." or "Wow, that SURE is a lot of money to retrofit!"

Now seriously. If your customers are asking for a service and are willing to pay you MORE per visit for the convenience to use their credit card, what are you waiting for!?

Interesting Note: I spoke with a company called HLC Capitol, they do equipment financing for car wash owners and according to their representative Jeff Grong, with the way rates are right now a car wash owner can finance an ENTIRE credit card solution ($25,000) for $15 bucks a day with the way rates are right now. Based on the way customers that are currentyly accepting credit cards in the bays and vacuums, vending machines, and pet washes ALL substantiate that the additional profits made by credit card acceptance can easily make that monthly payment and still have profits above and beyond that cost. In my world of entrepreneurial investments I call that a win-win situation.

More observations to come later.
Posted on April 17, 2008 and filed under Marketing.