Car Care Industry
The events of and following 9-11 and the continued slowing of our
economy require us to look at 2002 much differently than we would
have six months ago. The first quarter of 2002 will dictate what
will happen for the rest of the year. Having said that, I believe
that the fundamental forces that have been affecting our industry
for the past 48 months remain unchanged though they may have been
temporarily disturbed. The shift in our culture from "Do It
Yourself" to "Do It For Me" is still in its infancy.
Consumers continue to demand better, faster, cheaper. Profit opportunities
abound. I am bullish on the future of car care industry.
What the Next Few Years May Bring
I'm not so sure that anyone can speak with any degree of credibility
on what the next few years will bring. However, I look for the economic
news to improve and for the car care industry to rebound from what
will, in hindsight, be a temporary dip caused by the general spending
caution brought on by 9-11.
There are indications that the stationary in-bay automatic car
wash will continue to be the growth segment of the car wash marketplace.
It also appears that the addition of multiple profit centers to
car care retail locations will continue to be the key to survival
The plans for the International Carwash Association for the next
couple of years will also be determined, in large part, by what
happens in the first quarter of 2002. We will be carefully monitoring
membership renewals, exhibit sales, and Car Care World Expo 2002
registrations during the first 90 days of the year as those make
up 90 percent of our revenue stream. Based upon early year performance,
the Board of Directors will make decisions concerning long term,
ICA's Major Goals
We have an aggressive marketing plan in place to get record
attendance numbers at Car Care World Expo 2002. Chicago is central
to the largest number of car care retail operations in America and
is also a city familiar to our international colleagues. The educational
offerings will be expanded to include more general business offerings
than in the past. The exhibition will be the largest car care exhibition
in the world with more than 4 acres of exhibit space. The camaraderie
attendees will experience will be more fulfilling than ever.
The association is also proceeding with its plan to complete an
ambitious environmental research project,
conduct its every-three-year nationwide study of consumer car washing
attitudes and habits, and continue to enhance www.CarCareCentral.com.
All three of these projects had been planned prior to 9-11 and the
board of directors of the association remains committed to making
these happen as planned.
We also will begin designing a comprehensive public relations program
for the car care industry. For years, we have heard the calls for
the International Carwash Association to provide the leadership
in this area. It's time to get serious about public relations -
designing a program and determining what it will take to make it
successful is an important first step.
We will continue to expand opportunities for operator volunteer
involvement by empowering them to represent their industry segments
in the affairs of the association. We will continue to expand the
"reach" of the International Carwash Association to include,
rather than exclude, more
of those businesses that are part of the car care industry. If you
are interested in volunteering, please call (888) 422-8422.
And, finally, we will embark on a risk management program which
will be aimed at doing two things - developing a strategy aimed
at reducing the cost of property and casualty insurance and improving
car care operations compliance with applicable OSHA requirements.
The most recent membership satisfaction survey that we conducted
indicated that the two greatest concerns our members had about the
future were insurance and OSHA compliance. We're going to respond
to those concerns in 2002.
Promise in the Immediate Future
My glass is always half full. Even though the future is difficult
to predict compared to the previous four or five years, I believe
the car care industry has its most exciting times ahead. We are
becoming even better business professionals and are paying greater
attention to details that may have been overlooked in the past.
This type of scrutiny will bode well for us in the future.
Because of increased competition and uncertain economic times,
the vendor community is developing new and better solutions to car
care problems. The innovations we'll see as a result will be cleaner
cars, faster, at a reduced cost.
To stay on top of the changes will require careful monitoring of
what is happening and the ability to respond quickly. The International
Carwash Association is poised and will continue to be
better positioned to respond.
Operators vs. the Problems They Encounter
This gives me the opportunity to get on my soapbox. Operators
are facing the same problems they have been facing since I started
in the car wash business. Operators are facing problems with labor,
how to control costs, how to increase revenues, how to compete,
and how to deal with increasing regulation by government.
The question should be, "How are operators dealing with the
problems they face?" I have only been in the car care business
for 16 years, but I still approach each year with the same tactics.
Studying everything I can get my hands on, networking with other
operators, and going to as many conventions and expos as I can have
proven to be very profitable both in my business and personal life.
The operators who rely strictly upon the trade magazines to "stay
on top" amaze me. A new way of "staying on top" is
the reliance upon Internet forums for information. While both of
these vehicles are valuable, they are faceless, many times nameless,
usually one-way communications. They are only a small part of the
equation for dealing with the problems we face - thus limiting our
opportunities for success.
Equally confusing to me are the operators who attend trade shows
and expos and yet only go to the show floor. I always go the educational
sessions to get firsthand knowledge from first class operators on
how they are dealing with their problems. I have never failed to
pay for all my expenses for travel, lodging and registration fees
by attending the educational and general sessions,thus maximizing
my opportunities for success.
An added bonus to attending the educational sessions is the opportunity
to network with first class operators from other places. Where else
can you get that opportunity? Please understand that I always also
go to the exhibits and spend as much time as possible there.
Thank goodness the show-floor hours and educational sessions don't
conflict with one another. Do you think that might be a coincidence?
One of the greatest benefits of being the president of the International
Carwash Association is that I will have the opportunity and privilege
of attending many more state, local, and regional association meetings
than ever before. I'll be in the educational sessions. Will I see
For information on the Car Care World Expo 2002, April 25-27, 2002
in Chicago, go to www.CarCareCentral.com.
A complete calendar of events for the car care industry can also
be found there.
Bill Sartor is president of the
International Carwash Association.