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Expert Advice — Committing to the Best Location

The old adage location, location, location, I think is what we want. We always want the best location we’re going to do the most business. Now, we can certainly analyze that and say, what’s the traffic count, because we know that picking a site is not an exact science. So, is it traffic count that makes it up? Ingress and egress? Is it visibility that you’ll be able to position the building on? There are a lot of factors involved that you need to study, but we always want the best location to do the most business. Now, we want to pick that. You’ll say, well, it’s more expensive. But at the same time, you’re building and equipment and electrical costs are going to be the same. So, with the smaller location, you may have less landscaping, asphalt, site improvement costs, which could reduce that, compared to even though the other sites are more expensive, you’ll have less site work to do, which would help reduce the cost. But, if we’re going to do twice as much business, that’s an easy pick. Pick the best location, even though it’s the most expensive.

Who determines that? You have to determine that, and that’s based on all of the road signs that we get. Is it traffic? Is it ingress and egress? Is it a lot layout? Is it the density of the population in the area? Is there new construction, and is the town moving towards that area, which makes it an A+ location, because of maybe new development around it, traffic, and as I just stated, ingress and egress, the layout of the facility on the site. So, there’s a lot of variables, but if it’s the most expensive, it probably is the best site based on all of those factors, comparing them to the B and C sites.

Doesn’t always necessarily have to be a corner or a stoplight site that makes it an A+ site. Some of my sites, our best sites, are inside lots.

A couple of factors to consider: Are you relocating your existing site? That’s number one. Are you the only other car wash in town, if you built a new one? Then would you have two sites in a 30,000 person population? Those are all good. Yes, I want to do it. Now, if you’re adding a location, is it on the same thoroughfare? Is it going to affect the volume that you have? Or, I would take the approach that we are going to increase, or double or triple our volume between the two locations with name recognition, branding, and convenience. I think that we all have a tendency to overlook the convenience aspect of car washing. That, the more car washes, maybe we’d all wash more cars because of the convenience aspect and the awareness to the marketplace that there are a lot of car washes, it’s convenient, and it must be a great thing. So, let’s go in and get our car washed. And I think that that’s overlooked sometimes.

Well, the B location, and what does that mean B location? Is it on a slower street? Is it in the same general area? Is the zoning only on that location, and no one else would be able to compete? But you still want to expand and generate that market awareness through branding, and increase your total volume making it more convenient for customers. Now, what’s a B location? Does that mean that you’re going to be hidden behind another business? We don’t want to do that. We want to be upfront, preferably parallel to the street. But, if we have to go perpendicular, do we have enough width to get our signing out, and get the exposure we need to get people to see us as they drive by.

I think AAA locations always make sense, and I think that you make the facility work. If it’s a AAA location, it sounds like you’re going to have the right configuration to layout your carwash on it to make it work. And again, AAA location, it may end up being your highest volume location if it’s that good. But I think the point is, again, building and generating increased volumes through convenience and branding are very important, and that would help you make this site a very good site. Even though it’s smaller and it’s not what you’re used to, it comes back to operations. And processing cars may take a little more management on the smaller site, but again, you would be able to make it a very profitable site.

You may not have to reconfigure the size of your building and equipment package. You may have to reduce the other part of the operation, maybe you have half the vacuums. Now, in an acre and a half, you can have quite a few vacuums, so maybe in half the site you only have half the vacuums. But it’s still enough to generate the volume that you’re looking for, and maybe go beyond the volume you’re looking for because it’s a AAA site, and you may just have to manage it a little differently to accommodate those customers.

What it does, depending on if you’re talking about a smaller building and equipment package, it may limit your hourly production and it may not be what you want. But, is it such a great site that you can make up for that with longer operating hours to accommodate the convenience factor of those customers wanting to come in? Maybe you stay open longer to increase your daily production verse your hourly production.

I think the ideal size is an acre site, which is pretty much ideal. If the configuration is what lends itself to your specific requirements and layout, a little bit fewer works, and more obviously works. But, if you had to pick an ideal size, I think 40,000 square feet, or an acre of land, is a good starting point.

Depending on the age of your facility, maybe it’s time to start all over. If the traffic and the redevelopment are moving onto this new street, then I would say, yes, you build. Do you continue to operate the existing store you have until you get to a level where it’s not as profitable as you would like? And then, decide at that point what you do with it. But it sounds like the development and traffic are moved off the streets you were on. So, I would think it’d be a good choice, and I would make that choice, to relocate and build a new facility. But again, depending on how old the site is that you’re on, and at what level does it become unprofitable to operate? At that point, you determine whether you close it and redevelop it as something else. But, to open the new site on a AAA location with a new facility, would be a recommendation that I would give you, and a recommendation I’d give myself.