In the site selection process for a proposed carwash, care should be taken to assess its visibility to passing traffic. Obviously, a deep-lot configuration is inferior to a lot that has greater frontage along the main traffic artery.
A corner is even more important because it provides access and exposure to two traffic arteries, which increases accessibility. When a signalized intersection is at hand, motorists can literally sit at a stoplight and observe the activity, thereby developing an impulse to take advantage of the service.
Another much more subjective variable can play a part in influencing capture rate upward or downward. It is one we call “curb appeal”. Retail shopping center developers are very familiar with this terminology, and they have come to highly regard this visual aspect playing a major role in attracting consumers.
For example, once a shopping center is 10 or 20 years old, the addition of a new façade with canopies, neon lights, new signage and attractive planters can virtually turn a failing center into one that is quite successful. Consumers are heavily attracted to modern facilities in any retail category, and car washes are no exception.
The operator of an existing car wash won’t be able to change any of the traffic characteristics at his location. But by categorizing the traffic into two components, local or commuter, a more effective marketing strategy, specially targeted toward the appropriate market segment, can be designed to increase capture rate.
For example, in locations where local traffic prevails and there is other good retail support, cross-couponing with other merchants is one potential. Asking patrons for their ZIP code and then targeting those neighborhoods with direct mail or flyers should be considered. There are good computer hardware and software systems available for this.
The marketing task, however, is more challenging where most of the passing cars represent commuter traffic. Some effective promotional techniques we have observed include large signs offering free commuter mugs for a week or two.
Free coffee and doughnuts or a free newspaper or Wall Street Journal can be good temporary advertising campaigns. An espresso bar and shoeshine stand are helpful to the working crowd. When daytime hours permit, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 7 or 8 p.m. will allow working commuters to avail themselves of a wash on the way to or from the job.
Many car washes have been very successful giving out punch cards promoting every fifth or sixth wash as a freebie instead of the more normal 10th wash.
No matter where the location, the passing traffic should become a matter of careful study. The visibility, visual impression, width/depth, width/depth ratio of the site and the important sub-components of commuter versus local traffic are all items that merit serious consideration. To those who understand these variables will come the fruits of higher capture rates when choosing a site or marketing an existing facility.
A traffic count is the average number of cars that travel on a given piece of roadway in a day. A good traffic count – though just one factor in predicting the success for a particular piece of property – is one of the basic elements of site selection. Industry experts caution there is no magic number or special formula, such that if you have 25,000 cars going by you’ll X number of dollars, or if you have less than 15,000 you’re going to go broke.
You will capture – that is draw in as customers – less than 1 percent of the cars that drive by your wash. But the capture rate is a function of other things beside the number of cars going by a location.
The traffic count also has to be evaluated in the context of ingress and egress to the proposed location