A carwash association takes the tradeshow route into the international market.
While the international Carwash Association has been doing things “internationally” since the ’70s, says ICA CEO Eric Wulf, that’s using the term loosely. “We were doing trips with our members to visit carwashes around the world, but we never thought of ourselves as setting up business overseas,” he says.
That changed this past winter when the association announced that it will launch Car Wash Show Europe in October 2015. The biennial tradeshow, to be held in Amsterdam, will feature educational seminars, a tradeshow, and networking events for carwash operators and suppliers.
“We’ve always taken a view of ourselves of being sort of ‘big tent,’ meaning we serve retail carwash operators and distributors and manufacturers—the whole chain,” Wulf says. “So going international is really just a continuation of that strategy. In the rest of the world, there’s no equivalent to what we do. Even though we’re 95 percent American, there’s no other international carwash association.”
Why Europe as opposed to, say, Asia? Familiarity, Wulf says. “A lot of our members—particularly those on the supply side—they already sell to Europe, and a lot of our operators have been to Europe to visit different carwashes.”
Hosting the show in Europe also made sense because of the cultural similarities to the American carwash industry, and it’s easier to get to than Asia, where ICA may expand in the future.
When it came time to pick the city, ICA considered locations in the Netherlands and Germany—the two biggest European carwashing markets—eventually landing on the Dutch capital.
“Amsterdam brings to it a little more of a European flair,” Wulf says. “We wanted to be sure to be respectful to the large German market but, really more importantly, be a European show.”
And while ICA does expect to pick up a few new members via its new tradeshow, that’s not the ultimate goal.
“Our strategy in Europe for the time being is absolutely a tradeshow strategy,” Wulf says. “That’s an important first thing for people to think about when going global: Are you trying to introduce a membership model, or are you trying to introduce a tradeshow proposition?”
The latter is a lot simpler, he adds: “A membership model can be much more complex in terms of dealing with culture and language, recruitment, and any incumbents that you might be competing against.”