Why on Earth is Procter and Gamble getting involved in the Car Wash Industry? Moreover, why is perhaps the greatest consumer product company of all times getting into the franchising business. You see, P&G is a great branding company, and some believe the best in the world.
What intrigues Corporate America about the car wash business anyway? Well, here are some of my thoughts: There is a contingency of Harvard Business School MBA’ers who have as part of their class assignments to access the concept of a nation-wide “Car Wash Company” and once these kids get out of school, they remember this and then think it’s a good idea.
Thus, some end up in large fortune 500s like P&G (which is a GREAT COMPANY, so don’t get me wrong), some end up as investment bankers, and a few turn up in the car wash sector every once in a while.
I can recall P&G’s Mr. Clean showed up to debut at the International Car Wash Convention back many years ago and I actually sensed a bit of angered from car wash owners. It appeared that P&G assumed that car washes would sell their ‘personal’ car washing systems for home washing and thought they are a kindred spirit to those in the car wash industry.
P&G advertised in all the Car Wash Magazines and spent huge money (in relation to the car wash industry, not the behemoth P&G, whose annual gross is 15 times the entire car wash industry combined). I laughed because, I thought it was good to rub it in the face of the arrogant and politically petty car wash industry, they deserve it, mostly knuckle-heads, only a few really get it (5-10%). [personal opinion from years of observing the industry].
The Mr. Clean product showed up at major box store retailers in little packages and sold well, as expected and well researched I am certain. Again, I felt the tension, it appeared to be making the industry angry, kind of like Maguire’s did when it turned on the auto-detailing industry and sold directly to the public, it pissed off everyone. Good move for their bottom line, but bad move for their dealer networks, especially with other strong product lines like Pennzoil’s sub-brands or Auto-Magic an industry mainstay, ready to pick up new dealers.
Car Wash Owners and the Car Wash Industry; well, it’s a cut – throat, throw you to the dogs industry, it’s a cash-cow business and it attracts disreputables, wannabe mafia types, it’s pretty sickening. Many have been critical of players like Mace Securities that got into the business for instance, interesting history there.
P & G could make a go of it, but I believe they should buy Mister Car Wash, change the name to Mr. Clean, and make the “Mister Car Wash” a mini-sub-brand, merging without disrupting either brand; I think I could make that happen well enough. This would give P & G market notoriety, but would cost them too.
Then, Mr. Clean could sell off those units as Master franchises, where they were clustered and use them for new training facilities, for new owners. P & G has big guns and could use this to help get financing since new car wash business building has come to a standstill, financing issues. Still, car washing is down straight across the board, virtually everywhere. Yes, it will pick up and the new model will have to be $5.00 car washes in 5-minutes. Only, a couple of companies have mastered that so far.
P&G plans to sell its franchises for $500,000 and that may not be enough to do a car wash venture, and I have not seen the FDD (Franchise Disclosure Documents), to see what all that gets the franchise buyer. Indeed, I’d like to see the “Pre-Fab” buildings first (if that is there strategy), then maybe it could fit into a 500K deal.
P&G could also make it work, as an all-hand-wash, mostly outdoor thing, like they do outside Tempe, AZ near the college, where college students wash cars on top of a concrete slab with a clarifier underneath, but that will not be so great for a inclement climate weather locations. And I doubt if P&G would be looking there because that is not their style, but it would work well. Although I have not seen the plans, I doubt they are looking there.
Instead they are looking at a full-on facility, it’s just not in the cards in my opinion and I question their strengths and weaknesses, I’d like to see their SWOT Analysis, and poke some holes in it. Plus, for a company like P&G, they want to sell their products, thus, they do not want to own the car washes so they wish to franchise them. Wrong! That’s not right for their corporate focus, or core-business. And franchising is a litigious industry, just as Amos their new CEO, he knows better than anyone in the industry that truth.
Most franchisors in the car wash sector; Bob’s Car Wash, Rapido Rabbit, etc, have failed due to undercapitalization, and selling to franchisees that didn’t get it. Whereas P&G doesn’t have to worry about that, it doesn’t mean they need to go and throw money into a car wash sludge pit!
The car wash industry is over-saturated now and with the economy down, more so, it will be clearly 18-24 months until it returns, meanwhile new outlets will not be hitting legitimate ROI targets in that climate. Sure, things will return, but it will be a while. Any company entering this market will have to be low-cost, extremely high volume to win.
Most cities will most likely expedite building permits now, meaning 6-9 months max between submitting plans and first shovel turn, and 6-months to build. That is 12-months and means 6-12 months of dismal performance. Yes, the best time to go for it is when land is cheap, available, and distressed sales. But there is a gap in the time lag here and biting the bullet now, for big a full-on-franchise system is the wrong strategy once again in my opinion. I could make it work, but I guarantee they can’t as it’s been laid out.
Mr. Clean brand is in a pickle, because NPDES and storm water rules are tightening, their home-use product puts consumers in jeopardy of breaking the law with water pollution rules. So, their only option is to do something different, but I do not think they have thought this through correctly. It will be interesting to watch, that’s for certain. Think on this.
Lance Winslow – Lance Winslow’s Bio. If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; http://www.WorldThinkTank.net/.