Mr. Clean goes from kitchen to car wash

Mr. Clean Car Wash logo

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: The name behind Crest, Pampers, Tide and a long list of other familiar brands is counting on another familiar name to launch itself in a whole new direction -- the franchise service business.

The Cincinnati-based company announced today it's taking applications for new carwash franchises it's rolling out all over the country, under the brand-name Mister Clean. Is this a good business idea for a bad economy?

From the Entrepreneurship Desk at Oregon Public Broadcasting, Mitchell Hartman reports.


MITCHELL HARTMAN: Carwashes tend to be scrappy, locally-owned businesses without the consistency, or even the cleanliness, of a big national chain.

Nathan Estruth heads up new business development for Procter & Gamble. He says Mr. Clean carwashes will offer a high-end experience, starting with . . .

NATHAN ESTRUTH: A greeter that greets you when you come on the lot, that looks you in the eye, makes clear what offerings you can receive. It includes a sparkling-clean environment inside.

Plus, your kids can spray colored soap foam on the car while it's being washed.

Aside from the muscle-bound Mr. Clean pitch man, Estruth says P&G has another advantage: There are a lot of laid-off businesspeople looking to buy franchises nationwide.

But Don Sniegowski, who edits a news website for franchise owners, thinks P&G is overly optimistic.

DON SNIEGOWSKI: Franchisees or potential francisees are very hard-pressed. The price of their real estate is down, the available cash is down. It's going to be a real hard slog to get franchise buyers.

It may also be hard to get customers.

Gary Anderson is an attendant at Washman Carwash in Portland. It's attached to a Shell station.

GARY ANDERSON: The economy's definitely taking its toll. People aren't willing to spend the money, even though the car that just came through here needed a car wash bad.

Procter & Gamble believes people will still spend money for a new kind of carwash experience. And the company's also test-marketing another branded franchise concept -- it's got three Tide dry-cleaning stores in Kansas City.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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