Ebb and Flow
Located in West Central Texas, between the Texas hill country and the rolling plains, sits the city of San Angelo. San Angelo covers 58.61 square miles, has a population of a little more than 100,000 and until about a month ago, didn’t have a carwash facility that offered complementary vacuums. San Angelo’s newest car care facility is situated on a high-traffic street corner, and while only a little more than a month old, its approach to customer service, marketing and of course, the aforementioned free vacuums are already setting it apart.
In mid January, the team of managing partners and owners of Jack’s Convenience Stores cut the ribbon on their first convenience store, quick lube and carwash facility called Jack’s Carwash and Lube. The group has years of experience running convenience stores across Texas. Some of their existing convenience store locations have in-bay carwashes on-site — one has a quick lube — but this store is their biggest and grandest location to date.
“Most of the Jack’s locations were originally Exxon full-service garage stations before they were Jack’s high-line convenience stores. When [the Jack’s team] got this particular location in San Angelo, they retrofitted an old service garage into a full-service, high-end convenience store. They planned on putting in a single-bay oil change facility that also did state inspections and leaving one of two existing in-bay carwashes and adding a tunnel carwash,” said Jack’s general manager, Jason Pierce.
After deciding the prospective location had enough traffic and space to move cars without hindering one service imparticular, the group decided to go ahead with their plans. They put in two oil change bays with an over-sized lobby and converted one of the pre-existing 42-foot in-bay carwashes into a 65-foot mini tunnel. Finally, they purchased the adjoining property and added a large canopy with free vacuums.
The Jack’s team was bringing a lot to San Angelo, but each additional service they decided to add wasn’t finalized without careful consideration. There was definitely a strategic methodology to their madness. Each move was calculated, each project was evaluated, and it’s paying off.
“The reason we didn’t pull both of the [pre-existing] in-bay carwashes was because of our [geographic] location. We have lots of dually pick-up drivers in West Texas. Most carwashes have very little to offer dually drivers other than a hand wash, which is more expensive. By keeping one in-bay carwash I can at least offer them a wash,” Pierce said. “Putting in the tunnel carwash required some planning. We had to think about how we were going to flow traffic. You don’t ever want to slow down the service you’re already making money on. If you’re going to do that, you probably need to take a second look at what you’re doing.”
After they figured out the flow and logistics of how their services would work together, the construction of the carwash was relatively quick.
“It’s all about the back room equipment you have. By the time we had our mechanical equipment evaluated and laid out, our equipment and brushes configured, everything dug-out, re-plumbed and installed, it took about six months,” Pierce said.
Jack’s Carwash and Lube hasn’t been open for very long, but Pierce said they’ve seen an increase in traffic count every week. He attributes their success and steady up-tick in cars to all of Jack’s services directing the customer back to them for their automotive needs.
“I think this business is becoming more of a package deal [in customers’ minds],” Pierce said. “When customers come in, they want to take care of their car, and that doesn’t just mean what’s under the hood. The lube center and carwash go hand-in-hand.”
If you’re a lube center that doesn’t have cross-marketing opportunities within your own business or the space, funding or other means to create new profit centers, you still have opportunities to cross-promote your business. For instance, consider partnering with a carwash in your immediate area.
“See if you can work a deal with someone down the road who has a carwash. Offer to give their customers a discount when they come to you for an oil change and vice versa,” Pierce said. “When someone purchases gas at one of our fuel pumps, they can save the receipt to bring to us later. When they bring us a receipt, they receive $1 off their oil change. Of course, we cap it at 10 receipts so we’re not giving away free oil changes, but by doing that we’re feeding our profit centers.”
Because Jack’s has a lot going on, you may assume staffing is their biggest source of contingency. On the lube side, Jack’s staffs six employees and divides them into two shifts. Quite often, Pierce said, he finds himself greeting customers and making sure they are taken care of while the two upper techs and one lower tech perform the service. On the carwash side, Jack’s staffs four people.
“As traffic increases that may change, but [currently] it’s working well,” Pierce said.
Because cross-promotions are such a big driver of repeat traffic, marketing has been one of Jack’s biggest challenges so far. They hope continuing to educate and build relationships with their customers will lessen that strain.
“Try conveying to the customer on the POS the fuel pump provides what they’re buying when you have two types of carwashes can be very difficult. One carwash is a manned tunnel with opening and closing hours while the in-bay carwash is open 24/7. It can confuse people. We’re working through challenges like that,” Pierce said. “Hopefully, by being able to be on the lot and educating customers, we’re going to be able to spread the word. In a town of this size, hopefully that won’t take too long and customers will become comfortable enough with us, what we’re doing and how it all works together that they’ll keep coming back.”
Ultimately, the key to success for Jack’s and they key to your success — whether you’re thinking about adding a carwash to your lube shop, a lube shop to your carwash or maybe a convenience store to your carwash and lube shop — always returns to the principle of flow. Whether it’s the steady influx of traffic and making sure everything stays moving appropriately, the consistency in marketing messages or the uniformity in branding and making sure each of your business efforts flows seamlessly will positively effect your reputation. Your customers will thank you for being consistent, and they will show their gratitude by raising your car count and bottom-line.
As for Jack’s Carwash and Lube, they plan on listening to their customers, being flexible and evolving to what they want.
“We never had intentions of drying cars at the end of the tunnel wash, but now we’re drying cars. We decided we wouldn’t offer detailing, but now we’re detailing cars,” Pierce said. “You have to be flexible, you have to listen to the customer and you have to figure out how traffic around your shop will flow best.”