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Car Wash Show Australia Q&A with ACWA President Craig Campbell

6 minute Read

Q: What’s new this year with Car Wash Show Australia?

The most obvious new thing will be the tie-in with the ICA. This will manifest itself in terms of reciprocal members rates for entry to the show as well as input into the educational aspects of the event. We will also be expanding the capacity for our local site tours the day prior to the opening of the show—one for the growing tunnel segment sites, and one for the traditional self-serve / automatic sites. 

In years past, we had a formal awards gala dinner, but this year we are replacing it with a more casual networking and social event—with roving entertainment, “street stall” food, and plenty of potential for creating memories and relationships to last a lifetime.

We are seeing a significant spike in interest in Car Wash Show Australia 2018 from new and potential car wash investors. Taking a lead from this trend, we are about to announce a new concept and an addition to our already published program—a New Investor Seminar which will provide an intensive two-hour session specifically designed with new entrants to the car wash industry in mind.  It will provide expert insights into the process of operating a car wash site and importantly how to avoid the most common mistakes made by new investors.

Q: What’s new from a strategic perspective?

The ICA partnership is a fantastic thing and has significantly raised the profile of Car Wash Show Australia. This has resulted in an unprecedented level of international interest in the Show. It allows us to expand our access to industry knowledge far beyond what we can access in Australia. This will manifest itself in both the number & diversity of overseas suppliers exhibiting as well as in the educational content for the attendees—most of whom are hungry for knowledge of trends taking place overseas. Also, since the ICA is sharing its expertise in show management, it is shaping up to be not only the biggest show we’ve ever put on, but also the most professionally run.

We understand coming to Australia requires a considerable commitment, but we are a developing car wash market. ACWA is confident that those who participate this year will be rewarded for their “leap of faith” into the Australian market. Already we have several new international exhibitors this year, and we are expecting even more in 2020.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the show?

The last day, from a personal perspective! Then I can relax and look back on a job well done by all. Seriously, though, it’s shaping up to be our best show ever. We’ve sold out the exhibit space, and the level of enthusiasm from operators is very high. It promises to be a fantastic event. 

Q: What can you tell me about the car wash market in Australia? What makes it different or similar to other markets?

The Australian market is a bit of a blend of the USA, Canadian, and European markets.  Whilst it’s a mature market, we’re still well behind the curve in terms of saturation—for a country of 25 million, we estimate that we have 2,500 professional wash locations, so there’s plenty of growth upside.

The private operator market looks very similar to the European ones (and what the North American one looked like 10 years ago)—roughly 1,000 sites consisting of self-serves and in-bay automatic(s).  There is a small but growing tunnel segment, mainly modeled on the express exterior concept from North America.  Additionally, there is a robust retail petroleum segment, mainly consisting of rollover automatics similar to Europe and North America—but uniquely, there are also a number of self-serve bays operated by retail petroleum, as well as a few tunnels.

In short, an American, a Canadian, and a European (no, this is not a “…go into a bar” joke) would find something very familiar on one of our Australian sites.

That said, we probably lead the world in dog washes. Every private site with enough space seems to operate a dog wash or two, and even the retail petroleum guys get into the act.  We have a temperate climate, so it’s easy to roll out, and we love our dogs.

We also are a country that loves our coffee. Generations of southern European immigration have resulted in a robust café culture, and this extends to car washes. There is a strong full-service, hand wash (or sometimes tunnel wash) segment that combines car washing with full service cafés.  It’s a juxtaposition I’ve not seen in large numbers elsewhere in the world.

Finally, pricing is quite a bit higher than you would find in a typical North American or European market. We tend to be a high wage, high price country—similar to Norway or Switzerland.

Q: What makes Australia a market that equipment manufacturers and suppliers should be looking at?

The short answer is that overseas suppliers already know the future. To a North American supplier, Australia is a market that is very similar to what existed in the USA 10 years ago – a lot of private sites with self-serves and automatics. These not only need to be maintained and replaced over time, but the growing interest in tunnels makes for an opportunity to help shape the growth in that segment. It will not be a carbon copy of the USA market—the Australians will put their own flavour on it—but it should develop along similar lines.

Also, the fact that we have only 2,500 professional sites for a country of 25 million indicates that we have upside in terms of professional washes (vs home washing). Recent weather trends and increasing talk of the possibility of water restrictions buttresses that.

Finally, we are seeing trends across segments toward process automation. Australia not only has high wage costs but is also highly regulated, so every year there are higher costs and more compliance requirements associated with hand washing. We are seeing in segments like motor dealers that automating the wash process makes sense in a lot of cases (especially where motor dealer complexes are being built), and we also are increasingly seeing some or all of the hand wash processes being automated. Depending on the layouts of the specific sites, this can take the form of a process or two (e.g. high pressure stations or automatic drying stations) all the way up to a full conveyorised set-up with brush stations and the works.

Q: What makes Australia a market worth visiting if I’m looking to buy a wash, either as an individual operator or as an investor?

There is plenty of potential in the Australian market, so if you’re looking to invest here, there is a good upside. Also, the Australian dollar is relatively weak at the moment, so your U.S. dollar or Euros go further. The market is still young, but mature enough that there is a well established professional wash culture here. I see plenty of upside in it, and it looks set to continue with solid growth for the foreseeable future.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your business back home, you will find no better execution of car wash cafés anywhere in the world. Or dog washes. Australians are very creative, and they have managed to take concepts from overseas and adapt them in interesting ways.  Whilst you may not see anything radically new, you will probably come away with a few ideas for better ways to market, interesting concepts, or new look-and-feel ideas.  All it takes is one idea.

Q: What’s the number 1 reason a car wash owner or operator should be attending Car Wash Show Australia?

The first thought that comes to mind:  it’s Australia. In the Southern Hemisphere. At the end of October. Which means it will be late spring and beautiful weather. With cold beer, great local wine, and whacky animals. Not to mention a fantastic tourist experience.

Beyond that, it’s the largest gathering of car wash professionals in the Southern Hemisphere—what we affectionately call the largest Car Wash Party in this part of the world. There will be a lot of exchange of information and ideas. I am convinced that all who attend will come away with at least one idea that can transform their business.

More importantly, Australians are some of the more engaging, friendliest people in the world—what better excuse to make the journey Down Under and experience a bit of the Lucky Country for yourself?


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