The International Carwash Association’s The Car Wash Show 2014 exceeded most observers’ expectations. With the event being held in Chicago — at the end of March — few had hopes for a solid turnout. The final attendance figure of 5,619 therefore came as a pleasant surprise.
The number is all the more gratifying for falling a mere 200-or-so short of the attendance level recorded at the 2013 show in Las Vegas, a host city known for its ability to draw conferees. Two additional numbers from the ICA’s report on the show should have made exhibitors happy: 68 percent of attendees were buyers and, of the buyers, 33 percent had never attended The Car Wash Show previously, creating remarkable selling opportunities.
Adding to the good numbers, the exhibit floor did well at retaining attendees’ interest, with foot traffic remaining steady throughout the three days of the show. Even the final day — usually so slow that it is often referred to as “dead” — saw more activity than usual. This could, no doubt, be ascribed in part to the fact that Chicago does not suffer from as large a number of distractions as does Las Vegas. It is also true, though, that attendees had their work cut out for them to see and evaluate all the new products and equipment on display.
As in the past few years, only about 20 percent of attendees opted for the All Access Pass, which allowed for admittance to the educational seminars. While this number is disappointing, those who did avail themselves of these learning opportunities had a much-expanded program to choose from. Last year, The Car Wash Show offered a total of 24 seminars of which 16 covered general business topics and only eight dealt with car wash specific subjects. At this year’s show there were 36 seminars on the schedule with again a third devoted to car wash specific issues. All of the latter, however, were sponsored presentations.
For the first time in several years, the keynote address did not feature a personality from the world of sports. In a presentation that could be labeled with equal credibility as either business or entertainment, Daymond John and Robert Herjavec from the ABC hit TV series “Shark Tank” sat down with ICA president Gary Dennis in a talk-show format for a conversation that touched, here and there, on the car wash business. While this particular keynote might not change the way operators wash cars, it did produce a few nuggets of wisdom — for example: “There is no such thing as a great idea or a great product; it all comes down to execution,” and “You have to keep going. You are only a failure if you stop.”
For 2015, The Car Wash Show returns to Las Vegas, to be housed, unfortunately, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For the first time, the show will incorporate the Western Car Wash Show, previously held separately. Western Carwash Association members will have a standalone year to assess how they benefit from the consolidation. The ICA takes its annual event to Nashville, TN in 2016, leaving the WCA’s 12 member states without a major show in their region that year.