The Eastside’s ‘clean trend’

The Eastside has a number of interesting lifestyles. Based on Hebert Research’s current findings, one of them is the way that cars are maintained around here.

Brown Bear Car Wash has 11 of its locations on the Eastside, including self-serve and tunnel car washes. Seattle has only six. Though Seattle still exceeds the Eastside in population and size, Eastside residents’ frequency of annual car washes is 45.6 percent higher than Seattle. Brown Bear captures 76.4 percent of the commercial car washing market on the Eastside.

There is a lot to learn from this.

Based on Hebert Research findings, car washing over the past four years has not declined with the economic recession. Priorities may change on spending, but there are exceptions — and it is within these exceptions that further insights are fostered.

The four strongest variables that explain the demand for paying to have cars washed can be explained by the increased importance of saving time, convenience, it’s better for the environment and a better cleaning method.

In November 1995, Brown Bear (Car Wash Enterprises) was sold to Tosco Refining and Marketing Company — acquired in 2001 by Philips Petroleum — for a major expansion outside of Washington. Much of the company’s early customer service standards were abandoned, and in 2003 the family that started the business reclaimed the company. Every detail from the white shirt dress code, culture, maintenance and service standards was meticulously restored.

The result is a company with over 300 employees and a culture that continues to raise the bar and lead in customer satisfaction. Brown Bear now meets the standard among its customers in the same fashion as Nordstrom, Costco, Daniel’s Broiler and Overlake Hospital. While the services and merchandise are obviously different, there is more that they share with each other. Clean warehouses, stores, restaurants and facilities are the details reflected by discipline. The brand stands for something within the company as well as with their customers.

Jim Hebert is the president and founder of Hebert Research, Inc.

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