Car washes across the nation experience the brutal effects that weather can have on wash volume. Heavy snows? Everyone stays inside. Roads are clear? Everyone rushes over to get a wash. Rain? No car washes needed. Sunshine? Time to make that finish shine.
But seasonal effects on car wash demand are actually far more impactful in terms of overall car wash operation. Thankfully, they are also far easier to predict and account for. While car washes are busiest in the winter and early spring due to customers eager to remove road salt and grime, the summer months cause a steady dip in demand as higher numbers of individuals are willing to wash their cars at home.
In fact, according to WashTrends 32 percent of the industry’s annual earnings occur during the cold weather months while spring and summer seasons each account for 25 percent of yearly revenue. Autumn is even worse with only 18 percent of total revenue as fewer customers have warm-weather activities planned to keep their cars clean for and road salt isn’t yet put down. These disparities are, of course, even greater in areas with severe winters and less severe in areas with more temperate seasons.
So, as we look forward the briskness of autumn and the eventual snowfall, what are some of the lessons learned and best practices for managing the winter rush?
1. Staff must be trained!
Summer and fall are the ideal times for major car wash staffing, recruiting, and training. Conduct your interviews with students during their break and set up a strong team with enough alternates to manage the wash effectively through the cold weather. The summer lull will give you the time you need to get everyone up to speed before the cars start really lining up.
2. Keep the wash clear!
El Nino is making headlines and promising extremely heavy precipitation for most of North America. If you live in an area where snowfall is common, be prepared to bust out the salt and elbow grease to keep your car wash lanes clear of snow and ice. Customers want an easy-in and easy-out of your wash without big piles of slush to offend their ease of access. That means coming up with a plan to get rid of the snow all the way down to concrete, and a place to put that snow until spring rolls around. Consider using salt, chemical agents, radiant heating, in-ground heating, and snowblower systems as needed.
3. Avoid down-time at all costs
If winter profits are equal to summer and fall profits + 25-75%, operators need to do everything in their power to make sure that the wash is up and running for the cold months. That means aggressively taking care of maintenance and repair work during the slow times and getting upgrades and replacements finished before the busy season arrives, or taking care of problems at night during closed hours.
4. Use holidays for promotional drives and build customer loyalty
Car wash memberships and coupons can be big sellers for Black Friday, Christmas, New Year’s, even Valentines Day and present a great opportunity to hook more customers and bring them into your base.
Tommy Car Wash Systems