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Boost Your C-Store Car Wash’s Profitability: Answers to Your Top 10 Questions

Boost Your C-Store Car Wash’s Profitability: Answers to Your Top 10 Questions

            When you manage a convenience store, you’ve got a lot to handle. Did you know you could be overlooking ways to make your business more profitable, especially if you have a car wash—or are thinking about adding one?

            “C-stores are a data-driven industry, but there’s so much information available that it’s easy to draw the wrong conclusions,” says John Ausmus, a key account manager with Mark VII. “We can help you break down the data, understand what it means and help you make the next right decision for your business when it comes to car washes.”

            Here are Ausmus’s answers to common car wash questions from c-stores.

Question 1: How much does Mark VII know about the c-store industry?

A: The mindset of a c-store owner interested in adding a car wash is much different than the mindset of a private investor who owns a stand-alone car wash. A c-store owner isn’t just concerned about the car wash, since they’re also focused on fuel, snacks, beer and other beverages and products they sell.

We have a tremendous amount of experience integrating car washes (both roll-over washes and tunnel washes) into c-stores’ businesses across North America. Before I joined Mark VII, I worked for a large, national c-store chain for 12 years. I was their car-wash category manager, so I understand the business from the c-store perspective and the car wash supplier perspective through Mark VII. Many of our team members also have years of experience working with c-stores.

Question 2: Does Mark VII work with c-store chains, or independent c-stores?

A: Both. Some of our customers have just a few c-stores, while others have thousands of stores with hundreds of car washes. We have specialists on our team who serve these different market sectors.

Question 3: How do you help c-stores determine the right car wash for their business?

A: We can run feasibility studies for our customers who are installing a new c-store and want to know if the location is a good spot for a car wash. We can also advise you on great locations for a car wash, good locations for a car wash, and locations you should avoid. These are free, value-added services from Mark VII.

Question 4: How do you help a c-store car wash become more profitable?

A: Picture a three-legged stool, where one leg involves operations, one involves service, and one involves marketing. You need all three working together to have a successful car wash. I put operations first, because how you maintain your car wash impacts how long it will perform well. Just like success in football depends on fundamentals like blocking and tackling, success in the car wash business depends on fundamentals like keeping the wash bay clean, well lit and easy to access and exit.

Question 5: Speaking of service, how do you minimize downtime with a c-store car wash?
A:
Let’s start with a key question: how do you know when your machine is down? If a customer tells you, those conversations usually aren’t too pleasant. There are 3 R’s to consider when a machine isn’t working, including reset, repair or replace. We can get on the phone and talk a store employee through the reset process to get the wash up and running in minutes. If the problem requires a repair, our service tech will be there within four hours to fix it. We’ll also let you know if a replacement is needed. Did you know that Mark VII offers remote monitoring systems? If something goes wrong with your car wash, the system will notify us. We often know there’s an issue before someone at the c-store realizes it. This offers you peace of mind and frees you and your team to run the store, not worry about the car wash.

Question 6: Any tips for marketing a c-store car wash?

A: Maybe you’re wondering how to compete with the car wash down the street that’s always busy. I always tell c-store owners and employees, “You don’t have to compete with that stand-alone car wash, because your key selling point is convenient, one-stop shopping.” The busiest time for a c-store car wash is lunch time, when people grab a bite to eat and buy fuel. They may also buy a car wash, if they know you have a wash. We can help train your staff about ways to use a “suggestive sell.” Instead of having the cashier ask, “Would you like a car wash today?”, have the cashier ask, “Are you washing your car here today?” This conversation is free advertising for your car wash. Even if the customer doesn’t purchase a wash right then, the cashier has increased awareness about your store’s car wash, which can lead to future sales. When you work with Mark VII, we regularly share marketing ideas for your car wash.

Question 7: How can marketing data help make my c-store wash more profitable?

A: Let’s say you offer three level of car washes. Study the numbers and find out what percent of your customers buy option 1, what percent choose option 2, and what percent select option 3. Analyze what price points customers are responding to. Remember, marketing your car wash is a two-step process of building awareness and showing the value you can offer. Since these customers are already aware you have a wash, show the value of your wash by explaining the features your wash offers. Note the advantages customers receive at the various price points. Also, consider promoting different features during different seasons. In the winter, highlight options that can fight salt, sand and other grime that can lead to corrosion.

Question 8: How do I show our company executives the profit potential of a car wash?

A: We know that c-store owners have a certain amount of money to invest in their business. They have many different areas where they could allocate these funds, from new hot dog roller grills to a car wash or something else. We also know that installing a new car wash is a major expense, but it can offer a tremendous return on investment (ROI). We can help you pencil out these numbers. In some cases, we have these conversations directly with the c-store owner. In other cases, we calculate the ROI and share this with middle managers in the c-store chain, so they can make a compelling case to company executives to help them catch the vision and approve the investment in a new car wash.

Question 9: How often should a c-store upgrade or replace car wash equipment?

A: Well-built and properly maintained car washes can last seven to 10 years. For best results, it’s important to plan ahead for the next five to seven years after you install a car wash and prepare to re-invest in your car wash, as needed.

Question 10: What’s the biggest misconception you see in the c-store car wash business?

A car wash isn’t an extra burden for a c-store. It can be a major profit center for your business. We look forward to building a relationship with you and showing you the incredible potential a car wash can offer your c-store business.