NEWS: Car Wash Opportunity Could Be Pay Dirt

Why petrol and convenience retailers should consider offering car wash services.

By Nicholas Rider 
Convenience World Magazine, pg 40 | May, 2024
With P&C retailers ever on the lookout for ways to innovate and enhance their offerings, one that may be worth considering is offering car wash services on site.

According to Australian Car Wash Association President Neil Fox, incorporating a car wash service can "significantly increase" foot traffic and revenue for P&C retailers.

"It offers customers added convenience, allowing them to fill their tanks and get a car wash in one stop, saving them time and effort," he said.

"Indeed, results from our recently released ACWA consumer study (2023) found that 75 per cent of [surveyed] customers prefer to visit P&C sites that offer car wash services, and up to 90 per cent of [surveyed] car washers cite convenience as their primary motivator for car washing."

ACWA also notes research from the German Petrol Station Association that found that car washing can account for between 38 and 65 per cent of the revenue at service stations.

"While equivalent studies are yet to be undertaken here in Australia, anecdotal indications are that figures in Australia are likely to be the same," the association said.

Similarly, Car Wash Sales and Advisory owner and Director Rory Hilton says the addition of such a service "simply" increases revenue for the site.

"As land value and constriction costs have increased," he said, "developers and owners alike need the land to work harder for them."

Mr Hilton also points to the potential benefits of increasing revenue at the site's convenience store (ie, upselling).

"75 per cent of [surveyed] customers prefer to visit P&C sites that offer car wash services, and up to 90 per cent of [surveyedl car washers cite convenience as their primary motivator for car washing."

Ampol's investment pays off

Ampol says the recent performance at its car wash sites has been "strong" as more favourable weather conditions have led to a "surge" in customers taking advantage of the service.

"Planned investment into maintenance and upgrades to our machine car wash network has also seen benefits for customers with reduced downtime, improved reliability and quality of wash," a spokesperson said.

"As customers look for more cost effective and convenient ways to keep their vehicles clean, we see our offer as ticking all the boxes for value, quality and reliability."

Advice for retailers

Mr Fox encourages those considering the car wash opportunity to become members of the ACWA.

"Becoming a member of ACWA provides access to a wealth of resources, networking opportunities and industry insights that can help decision-makers," he said.

One such opportunity is the upcoming Car Wash Show Australia (13-15 August 2024), promoted as the largest car wash trade show in the southern hemisphere. The organisation says the show presents a prime opportunity for P&C retailers to explore car wash opportunities and connect with leading designers, equipment providers, and industry experts.

In similar advice, Mr Hilton recommends talking to an expert, as "it's not as simple as putting [a car wash] in and hoping customers use it".

He also advises retailers to staff the service accordingly and to "treat it seriously". Another option he proposes is outsourcing the service to a car wash specialist/operator.

"Be open to the concept of partnering with a brand in the car wash space and strengthening the core business," he said.

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