After being burned, many of those investors swore off stocks and dumped their remaining money in a bank or low yield bonds or under the mattress. The large move out of stock funds by individual investors affected daily trading volumes dramatically and left trading mostly to giant institutions and their high-frequency computers and software programs.
In the last five years, the percentage of household financial assets invested in the securities markets has increased by a whopping 25 percent. Financial analysts estimate that 35 percent of household financial assets are “at risk.” This level of investment-market participation has not been seen since the third quarter of 2007.
However, individual investors may have returned but they are putting their money into plain vanilla, no frills, and passive corners of the investing world. Apparently, mom and pop investors have learned it doesn’t pay to play with the big boys.
Conversely, we have not seen the same behavioral change in individual investors in the car wash industry. For example, executives who participated in the Auto Laundry News Executive Forecast 2015, said there are a lot of struggling car wash operators who have wanted to sell for some time.
According to International Carwash Association CEO, Eric Wulf, site ownership continues to be fluid, from the consolidation of independent operators to the acquisition and divestiture activities in the convenience store segment. On the independent operator side, Wulf sees more investors in the car wash business as opposed to the more traditional owner and operator.
Perhaps mom and pop feel “sucker punched” and have sworn off putting or keeping their money in the car wash business. Instead of sucker punched, I’d say mom and pop investors in our industry were victims of creative destruction — new business ideas and concepts can thrive only by destroying the old ones.
For decades, there were low barriers to entry and countless dreamers could open small-scale car washes even if they didn’t have a lot of money or financial moxie. However, the economics have changed. Today, there are more investors in the game with stronger business plans and deeper pockets, which has made the car wash business less interesting because of the sameness of many new operations.
We find these newer, larger operations have a substantial negative impact on operations of smaller competitors. The adverse impact tends to be the worst if the newer store is located within one to three miles of the smaller competitor.
To combat this, mom and pop should not throw in the towel on the economic theory of maximizing profits. Mom and pop stores that survived the onslaught of big store chains and giant franchises did so by providing the type of products and services that the big guys were unable or unwilling to do.
In the final analysis, a great many of the more than 27 million businesses in the United States are what economists call lifestyle businesses. A lifestyle business is set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income and no more; or to provide a foundation from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle. On the other hand, start-ups take big swings with a lower probability of success and hope for a very big outcome — usually a sale or IPO.
Arguably, if mom and pop want to get back into the car wash game, they must learn how to counterpunch. This means bringing an entrepreneurial spirit and their own special recipe for customer service, community involvement, and a more personal shopping experience that keeps customers coming back.
Bob Roman is president of RJR Enterprises – Consulting Services (www.carwashplan.com). You can reach Bob via e-mail at email@example.com.