CHICAGO — When trying to put 2007 in perspective, one way to start is by comparing it to the past year. By comparison, 2007 has been somewhat of a quiet year.In 2006, there were some major industry transactions. Whirlpool Corp. completed its buyout of Maytag Corp. just two days after receiving clearance from antitrust regulators. In addition, Alliance Laundry Systems LLC, which offers Speed Queen and Huebsch commercial laundry equipment, completed the acquisition of Laundry System Group NV’s Commercial Laundry Division (CLD). CLD had marketed commercial washer-extractors, tumbler dryers and ironers worldwide under the IPSO and Cissell brand names.While 2007 lacked some of the major business transactions, the year wasn’t lacking for news. The big industry event, Clean ’07, took place in Las Vegas June 11-14. Attendance at Clean ’07 topped the previous show — Clean ’05 in Orlando, Fla.Energy efficiency is an ongoing story for this industry, and the Clean Show exhibitors recognized this. There was plenty of equipment/products that caught the attention of show attendees. Things that stood out included larger dryers; high-efficiency top loaders; and a host of new front loaders.When talking with distributors this year, it’s pretty evident that the industry continues to see a steady influx of new investors. Some have referred to these people as the “new breed” of owners. I have spoken with a number of these people, and they bring some fresh ideas to the industry.We hope you’ve found this year’s issues beneficial. To stay completely updated, you also need to check out AmericanCoinOp.com on a frequent basis.If you missed a story this year, or just want to recall what some of the operators, distributors or manufacturers said or did in 2007, now is your chance. We look back at the year’s best ideas and most interesting stories.JANUARYThe Coin-Op Beautiful competition is a great way to kick off the year. The nation’s best coin laundries are showcased.The grand prize winner is In and Out in Dallas. Nick Rizos is the owner and Commercial Equipment Co. served as distributor.Four other entrants received special recognition:• Duds N Suds, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Owners: Clint, Lorie Landis. Distributor: Century Laundry.• Monroe Wash & Dry, Monroe, N.Y. Owner: Mark Baumgarten. Distributor: HK Laundry Equipment.• Laundry & Tan Connection, Indianapolis, Ind. Owner: Mike Gilley. Distributor: Super Laundry.• Wash Happenin, Snyder, Texas. Owners: Helen, Celia Feinsod. Distributor: Ed Brown Distributors.Fourteen stores are honorable mention winners.Is ozone in your future? Ozone carries an electrical/chemical charge in the washing solution, which actually starts to dissolve soil on contact. This process activates the chemicals in cold water instead of using hot water at 140 to 160 degrees. Being able to use a lower hot-water temperature and reduce drying time (15 to 25 percent reduction) are the primary owner benefits, says Jim Konides, president of PolarWash LLC, a dealer for ArtiClean Ozone laundry systems. As far as customer benefits, clothes washed in ozone last longer and are softer and fresher smelling, he adds.Ozone systems for laundries cost in the range of $21,000 to $25,000, plus installation and taxes. Konides believes that a medium to large store can recoup that investment in less than two years.The newest dryers are on display. It wouldn’t hurt to take a second look. Twelve different reviews are presented.The presidential dollar coin is set to debut. Will this coin finally catch on? Industry representatives are skeptical, a survey shows.Lastly, Bernard Milch, Wascomat CEO, announced his retirement and resignation as CEO of Wascomat. Neil Milch was appointed CEO. Bernard Milch founded Wascomat nearly 50 years ago and was known for his desire to establish front loaders as the leading product solution for the modern coin laundry. FEBRUARYVending has been a part of the coin laundry industry for many years, and storeowners have done a good job of exploring various types of revenue-generating opportunities that go beyond traditional soap. Vince Hansen, Vend-Rite Industry, offers these vending-related suggestions:• Storeowners need to look at the big picture and decide if the risk/reward of certain revenue-producing items is worth it. For example, video games may keep kids busy, but will they make enough noise to bother your customers? Also, anything you add to the laundry takes up space. Should the space be used for another washer or dryer?• Advancements in vending machine technology have broadened the line of products that can be vended. Pizza, hot dogs or even soup may be ideal for your customers.• Give some thought to selling specialty products, such as pretreaters and spot removers, that would allow a customer to take care of a particular cleaning problem.• “Sell” the services you offer to grow your business. Being creative in the way you promote your business also brings in new customers. Try sponsoring a Little League or adult softball team, maybe wash their uniforms.Distributors have many suggestions when it comes to offering extra profit centers. Classic video games, such as Ms. Pac Man, or milder, non-violent games should be considered. Drop-off drycleaning is always something to think about. Fabricare-related services, such as alterations and repairs, might turn laundries into a one-stop shopping destination.There seems to be a front loader to fit every need. These popular machines are reviewed.A family affair? Jim Manis, a third-generation owner, talks about carrying on the family tradition and the lessons he has learned. Manis runs eight unattended stores, one in north Georgia and seven in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area.MARCHThe 25th annual Buyer’s Guide includes more than 80 product/services categories and a directory that provides information on how to contact the various companies that make the specific product or provide the service that you desire.John Olsen, American Dryer Corp. (ADC) sales and marketing vice president, updates owners about the state of drying. While dryers now have important features such as improved microprocessors, user-friendly controls and self-diagnostic modes, Olsen believes dryer manufacturers haven’t answered the call for a more efficient dryer. However, he expects to see more energy-efficient dryers and larger dryers (both stack and single-pocket) at the Clean Show. He strongly believes that without efficient dryers and competitive pricing, operators might as well close the doors to their stores.Dion Marcionetti believes owners look at their current customers as if they will be customers forever. The truth is that your competitor is trying to lure these customers to his/her store. Marcionetti says a good customer is worth about $500 to $600 a year. In-store drawings for free prizes or free washes can help you hold on to your customers. A punch card (wash 12 loads and get the 13th load free) can also be effective.Drawing new customers is a different challenge, Marcionetti believes. You need to get the word out through direct mail, flyers, newspaper ads, the Internet (Web site), word of mouth, Valpaks or any means available to you in your area.An American Coin-Op Wire survey shows that 70 of respondents plan on buying some type of laundry-related equipment in 2007.To read Part II of this article, click here.