The car wash industry is littered with stories of mom and pop owners that have operated a single location for decades and someday plan to pass the keys off to their son or daughter to carry on the family tradition — this is not one of those stories. This is the story of a multi-location, corporate owned, and continuously expanding chain that despite its size continues to put the customer first and reap the rewards of its results-driven approach. This is the story of Boomerang Carwash.
Boomerang is a 31-location, express exterior chain based in Little Rock, AR, that has quickly evolved from a developer and equipment dealer 10 years ago, to a dynamic car wash operator today. The big change came just three years ago when the wash’s current ownership group took control and promoted James Burks to CEO.
Burks, who had been the company’s CFO since 2006, took the reins at an exciting time at Boomerang. Following years of ownership instability and inconsistent wash results, Burks found himself in charge of a company ready to put the years of struggle securely in the rear view, with a clear vision for the future and a commitment to expansion.
“When we put together the new Boomerang in 2012 our goals were to first stabilize the company,” Burks says. ”We needed to build the support staff around the operational side, and to get the most out of the existing facilities. We needed to get lost customers back and bring new customers in. First and foremost we focused on providing a quality wash. People need to be able to look at their car and feel good about what they just spend their money on. We focused on those things and have been able to significantly grow the results at every one of our locations over the past two years.”
One of the keys to the rebirth of the brand has been a renewed emphasis on the core values of the organization. Every company meeting starts with the reaffirmation of the wash’s mission statement: “To provide the highest quality express car wash and exceptional customer service at all times resulting in customer loyalty and a repeat customer-base.”
Boomerang promises its customers two things: a pleasant experience and a clean car. If any customer is not completely satisfied with their wash experience or the quality of the wash fails to meet expectations, Boomerang will rewash their car for free.
“We have told every person that works in our facilities that it is not their decision to rewash a car,” Burks says. “It is the customer’s decision. If they are not satisfied they get an automatic rewash, no questions asked.”
While a generous rewash policy is certainly a nice tool attendants can use to keep customers happy, Boomerang is not focused on rewashing cars — it is focused on providing market leading wash results that make their rewash policy irrelevant.
To make this goal a reality the wash utilizes high-end tunnel equipment designed to produce superior results with no prep. Boomerang has a mix of Sonny’s and MacNeil equipped tunnels in its 31-location fleet, and is relying on a hybrid approach in its newest renovations and groud-up projects. The typical Boomerang tunnel is 80 percent Sonny’s, with MacNeil equipment utilized for a set of wraps and a top brush.
Boomerang is committed to providing consistent wash results across the chain, and is focused on creating a memorable and predictable customer experience.
“Just like at McDonald’s if you order a Big Mac regardless of where you are you know what you are going to get,” vice president Ed Colvard says. “We wanted to have that same kind of brand development. That takes a lot of work. You need to have good people, good products, and always be consistent. We believe in the loyal, repeat customer. That is part of our mission statement.”
Boomerang’s commitment to building a loyal, engaged customer base is producing unheard of results. The chain surveyed over 10,000 of its customers and found that nearly 40 percent wash their car at a Boomerang facility once a week, with another 40 percent washing twice a month.
“If you look at those numbers what it tells me is that we can change people’s washing habits because of speed and quality which all equates to a value,” Burks says. “The frequency at which people wash their cars has increased because of what we offer and provide to the customer. That is the basis of everything we do at the stores.”
Boomerang operates with the mantra that their results are so good that if you try it once you will keep coming back again and again — just like a boomerang. One thing that customers keep coming back for is the chain’s top wash package. Boomerang offers four express exterior options: $6, $9, $12, and $15.
The $15 top wash, branded the Joey Punch Power Shine, was designed in-house and features a double application of clear coat protectant at the end of the tunnel to ensure a deep, lasting shine. Over 25 percent of Boomerang’s customers opt for the Joey Punch, and the executive team has built an entire marketing campaign around the package.
When the menu option was launched two years ago Boomerang did a marketing blitz with radio, print, and gorilla efforts designed to get the word out about the new service — it worked. The campaign got customers, both new and old, to try the latest offering, and true to form the superior results had them coming back for more.
“We have done more radio advertising in the last three years than we have done in the previous seven,” Colvard says. “It really has helped us get some awareness out there. But the most effective marketing we have is the sites themselves. It really is about location, location, location. And we believe we have the best locations.”
Boomerang continues to add new washes to the chain, with two sites coming onboard in the past year alone. In addition to those new sites, the wash also has three other ground-up projects in development. As Boomerang continues to expand it is open to both acquisition and development, but its current focus is on growing its footprint in its existing markets, necessitating a development approach.
“There are so many different types of car washes that you run into a lot of inefficiencies when you start taking over other people’s operations,” Burks says. “There are obviously a lot of car washes out there to take over, but we are looking for the best opportunity. If there is a car wash we can buy and refurbish that is great. But if that does not exist we will build.”
While Boomerang is a far cry from a typical family-owned, single-site operation, the expanding chain provides the kind of results-driven, customer-centric service customers expect from a mom and pop organization albeit at a scale the typical operator can only dream of.