Auto Detailing - August 2010

CCWE Wrap-Up
By Prentice St. Clair

The International Carwash Association (ICA) held its annual Car Care World Expo (CCWE) in May at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The International Detailing Association (IDA) had a presence at the event again this year offering educational sessions, a networking event, and a detailing pavilion on the trade show floor. For those involved in the professional detailing community who could not attend, here is a wrap-up of the show.

Most would agree that this year’s CCWE was decidedly less attended than in years past. Nonetheless, there was still a significant presence of decision makers. Moreover, on the detailing side of things, one could sense a palpable buzz, which was amplified by the presence of a dedicated and enthusiastic IDA board of directors, as well as the presence of a few dozen gung-ho representatives of the professional detailing community, including operators and suppliers.

Here are some highlights of the show, with special emphasis on the IDA’s participation.


There were four seminars offered by IDA during CCWE. The hour-long seminars were not intended to be comprehensive courses on the profession of detailing but instead were intended to offer attendees some fresh ideas and chunks of information to stimulate further thought and action. The feedback that I received during and after the seminars indicates that all in attendance were quite satisfied with the presentations. Heck, I was one of the presenters and I learned some things from the other presenters.

Speaking of which, Kevin Iden of Iden’s Detailing relayed the metaphor of “offering the fries and the cola” with the hamburger. His point was that you can increase revenue per vehicle by offering multiple services to the customer, thus creating a one-stop shop. Most importantly, he encouraged operators to replace the idea of simply discounting your current prices with the concept of packaging multiple services at a “package price” that is attractive to the customer.

It’s the same idea that all the fast-food establishments have with their “combo meals.” You already have the customer’s attention with your main service of detailing (the hamburger), now get them to spend just a bit more money for additional reconditioning services (the fries and cola).

Greg Swett of Classic Appreciation shared how he has tailored his marketing efforts during our down economy to tap into the fact that vehicle owners are keeping their cars longer these days. Greg’s marketing focuses on the idea that detailing can both preserve the value of the vehicle as well as increase the customer’s enjoyment by helping to make it look and feel new. He offered us a number of great, low-cost ways to increase traffic to the operation, including creating marketing alliances with other local businesses.

Bud Abraham encouraged us to continue to pursue traditional marketing tactics when appropriate, while at the same time embracing the ever-broadening popularity of online marketing, which seems to be an increasingly efficient and effective way to market your business these days.

I worked with Keith Duplessie of Detail Plus to offer a session that suggested ideas on increasing per-vehicle revenue by expanding the services offered. For example, we discussed the concept of “specialized detailing services” that are relatively easy to learn and inexpensive to supply. Such services to consider include premium protection packages, convertible-top care, deodorization, faded trim rejuvenation, headlamp restoration, and biohazard removal.

Keith and I also went over a second set of added services that involve more investment of time, money, and training, but also have more profit potential. These include paint touch-up and spot panel repair, windshield chip repair, interior surface (e.g., leather and vinyl) repair, wheel repair, carpet dyeing, paintless dent removal, and gold plating.

Finally, Renny Doyle of Attention to Details opened up our minds (wide) with a talk about some of the cutting edge technology that is available to the craftsman detailer. Renny is the guy to listen to if you want to raise your detailing knowledge and specialized proficiency several notches.


Members of the IDA board of directors are keenly aware of the importance of networking with others in our industry. To that end, the IDA hosted a detailer’s networking social one of the evenings during the show. It was attended by at least 30 professionals representing all aspects of the industry.

Those operators who enjoyed a beverage with their colleagues commented on how great it was to chat with other operators from around the country. They were able to swap stories about operational challenges and successes and to offer possible solutions for each other’s day-to-day business and technical problems. Additionally, they were able to speak one-on-one with detailing suppliers about the latest products and solutions.

The unscheduled networking was just as beneficial. By simply hanging out before and after the seminars, those in attendance got a chance to chew the fat with others who are fighting some of the same battles. Even during the breaks, attendees could be seen in the room and in the halls, comingling with IDA board members, the speakers, other operators, and suppliers.

Another networking opportunity was afforded by the presence of an IDA booth in the Detailing Pavilion on the trade show floor. The booth acted as a hub for detail operators and vendors to gather and discuss the state of the industry. Despite relatively low attendance at this year’s CCWE and the low foot traffic in the booths around ours, the IDA booth seemed to have no shortage of activity. It was especially encouraging to see current members bringing over potential new members to check us out. And most encouragingly, the IDA had a number of new members sign up during the show.


The idea behind the Detailing Pavilion on the trade show floor was originally to create a center that attracted detailing vendors and suppliers into one area of concentrated industry representation that could be perused by detailing operators. The pavilion booth occupancy was less than what we hoped, which was indeed par for the entire CCWE trade show floor, but the detailers nonetheless had some interesting detailing equipment and chemical vendors to chat with across the show floor.

Those in attendance had the opportunity to see and feel some of the newer equipment and chemicals available to the detailing industry. With the buzz that was created by the IDA’s presence this year, as well as a number of suppliers and vendors recently joining the association, we hope to have a much larger and worthwhile Detailing Pavilion at next year’s CCWE.


After all the festivities were over, the IDA board of directors still had more work to do. We spent an additional day for our annual formal board of directors meeting to chart the course for the Association over the next year.

As a sitting vice president on the board, I am happy to report that the outlook of the IDA in the coming year is exciting. The board is comprised of a strong and enthusiastic set of industry representatives with an assortment of strengths that combine to make a strong team that can build on the foundation laid by last year’s board. Moreover, this team is now supported by a new professional management company with a fresh perspective.

At this meeting, we established a set of goals and a list of action items that together make the plan of action for the year that should yield some significant progress in the growth of the association.


Those who are reading this column who were not able to attend this year’s CCWE and the concurrent IDA events are encouraged to get involved. The first thing to do, if you have not already done so, is to go to the IDA website and join ( Then visit the site often and keep informed about upcoming events. The IDA is planning a presence at the 2011 CCWE, and I personally encourage you to start planning and saving for your travel to next year’s CCWE, to be held in Las Vegas May 2-4, 2011. Additionally, it is possible that the IDA might do something between now and then, so stay tuned.

The IDA is a “trade association by, for, and about detailing and detailers.” It is made stronger by increased membership. Thus, another way that you can get involved is to encourage fellow operators in your area to check it out. The more members join, the more resources the association will have, which means the more benefits the association will be able to roll out for all members.


Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No man has a right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.” Get involved in your industry through membership in its premier representative association, the IDA. And follow the IDA closely to ensure that you are able to take advantage of the events that the IDA offers to the detailing industry.

Prentice St. Clair is president of Detail in Progress, a San Diego-based automotive reconditioning consulting firm. To contact him, e-mail or call (619) 701-1100.

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