CHICAGO — The last quarter of the year featured the annual distributor survey, a host of tips on how to spruce up your laundry, how to determine the ideal equipment mix plus the debut of the Coin-Op 101 column.SEPTEMBERThe Distributors Directory, an alphabetical listing by state of equipment distributors, is featured.The annual distributor survey shows that nearly 58% of coin laundry distributors had an increase in business in 2006, while 15.4% saw business decrease in 2006. Business stayed the same for 26.7% of the distributors.New stores continue to be larger. New stores built in 2006 include 9.5 top loaders, 28.2 front loaders, 34 dryer pockets and are 2,831 square feet.A Tennessee operator took a different route to decreasing utility usage. He came up with his own method of providing his dryers with preheated intake air. He constructed a greenhouse-like solar collector from materials from a standard building supply store and put it on the side of his coin laundry. Cinder blocks are a key part of the solar collector.OCTOBERIt’s always a good time to spruce up your laundry. Distributors from across the country offer tips on improving the overall image of your store. The list of tips is plentiful and includes painting the exterior, updating signage, cleaning and updating the floor, cleaning machines, maintaining the parking lot, painting interior walls, updating lighting and even cleaning the soap dispensers.There was some disagreement on certain things, such as the importance of updating the exterior. However, all agree that there are many inexpensive ways to make your laundry look better — and attract more customers.Vending has certainly come a long way from the days of basic drink and snack machines. Eleven companies are part of the vending equipment review.The trouble with budgeting for energy is that while you can estimate many of your expenses, your energy costs are unpredictable. One budgeting strategy is to explore a fixed-rate natural gas plan. There are a variety of things to think about before going this route, one of them being to make sure that the provider you choose has a strong balance sheet, among other things. It’s also important to make sure that the supplier has the seal of approval from the regulatory commission.NOVEMBERThe trend toward larger washers and dryers is evident. Several distributors discuss how to come up with the ideal equipment mix. While all agree that there is no “standard” accepted mix, the key to success is studying the demographics and also being aware of what your competition is doing.In addition, operators can’t afford to come up short when it comes to drying capacity. Several washer/dryer formulas are offered.Lastly, take some time to evaluate your equipment mix every now and then, the distributors advise.Are you ready to make your laundry’s opening date? Not so fast, Craig Dakauskas says. Dakauskas says patience and attention to detail will be more important to your success than hitting some opening date. He urges operators to create a list of items to check, get done and recheck. Some things to be concerned with include:
- having all your city approvals
- checking and tightening all hoses
- making sure drain valves are functioning
- making sure ancillary vending equipment is functioning and that you have adequate supplies on hand, and
- if you have a card system, review it’s operation and make sure you and your staff are ready to answer any questions about it.
Operators discuss pricing. Most seem to believe that pricing isn’t the No. 1 factor when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. The operators have also noticed that customers seem to be more sensitive to what happens with dryers (raising prices, lowering minutes) than what happens with washers. There is some disagreement about whether or not an operator should post signage regarding price hikes.DECEMBERThe year’s best ideas and operator tips are featured. There are a host of stories dealing about operators coping with utility-related challenges.Forty-two percent of respondents to a Wire survey claim their customers are better than most laundry customers, while 19% say they have the best laundry customers. Nearly 24% of respondents say their customers are no better or worse than other laundry customers, and 14.3% say their customers are worse than most other customers.Can a brand concept work in Mississippi? Danny Santini believes so. Santini got into the laundry business in 2001. He not only survived and recovered from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, but his business has thrived. He now has three coin laundries, and wants the stores to look the same so that the customers know that no matter which location they’re in, the level of service and quality will still be the same — excellent.Is it time to finally look for a cashless solution? The latest in cashless equipment is reviewed.Mark Benson shares some tips on how to improve your laundry in 2008. His first batch of tips focuses on customer surveys, adding a new service, updating signage, upgrading attendant tools (vacuums, brooms, mops, etc.) and finally deciding to fix the nagging problems you see on a daily basis.If you just opened up your laundry, are you starting to panic a bit? Are things not going as well as you thought they would? Craig Dakauskas urges operators to have patience and not panic. He believes the early days of operation should be used to gather and analyze data. Dakauskas looks at different aspects of the total coin laundry operation.To read Part I of this article, click here.To read Part II of this article, click here.