CHICAGO — Reflecting the volatile economic times, business varied greatly for coin laundry operators, according to American Coin-Op’s final Wire survey of 2008.Forty-four percent of respondents called 2008 a “good” (32.6%) or “great” (11.6%) year for overall laundry business. Thirty-seven percent were on the other end of the spectrum, rating the year “below average” (27.9%) or “bad” (9.3%) for overall business. Nineteen percent called 2008 “neither good nor bad” for business.When asked to identify the most significant thing that happened to their business in 2008, the answers also varied greatly. The No. 1 response was adding new equipment. A handful of operators also commented on dealing with rising utility prices and their efforts to increase vend prices.OPTIMISM IN THE NEW YEAR?How do you foresee business in 2009? Forty percent of respondents believe business will improve in the new year, while 32.6% expect business to be the same in 2009 as it was in 2008. Twenty-seven percent predict a downturn in business in 2009.PUTTING YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARDIn a competitive coin laundry environment, winning over customers might require a little extra effort. Respondents were asked to identify the best thing their laundry has to offer. Most said they “are the most comfortable store around (cleanliness, etc.)” (44.2%). Other popular responses include “We have the best equipment around” (18.6%) and “We offer the best service (attendants, extra services, etc.)” (14%).WORK TO BE DONEWhen it comes to tackling store improvements in the new year, respondents have a definite pecking order. The first thing operators plan to do in 2009 is “spruce up the store” (37.2%); “deal with an equipment issue” (20.9%); “become more energy-efficient” (14%); and “address a pricing issue” (7%).If there’s a silver lining in this economic storm, it’s that nearly two-thirds of the respondents believe the coin laundry business is better suited to deal with tough economic times than other small businesses. Seven percent disagree with this assertion, while 30% are not sure if this industry has any advantage over other small businesses during turbulent economic times.Subscribers to American Coin-Op’s Wire e-mails — distributed weekly — are invited to participate in an industry survey each month. The survey is conducted online via a partner website. Each survey is developed so it can be completed in 10 minutes or less. Readers are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and industry trends.Click here and follow the menu instructions to sign up for the free e-mail service.