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2019-20 State of the Self-Service Laundry Industry (Part 3)

58.6% of survey respondents have raised washer prices, or intend to, by year’s end

CHICAGO — How do you know if you stack up favorably with other laundry owners across town and around the country? Would you consider 2019 a good year or bad year for you? Are your vend prices in line with those of other store owners?

Answers to questions like these and more can be found in American Coin-Op’s annual State of the Industry survey report, which provides store owners and operators a valuable opportunity to compare their operation to others in the industry.

This year’s survey focused on 2019-20 business conditions, pricing, equipment, turns per day and utilities cost.

(Special note: Polling was conducted prior to the March 13 coronavirus pandemic emergency declaration and related work-from-home and other measures that followed that may have adversely impacted laundry business volume.)

When asked about their 2019 business results, respondents were given the opportunity to state whether their results were up, down or unchanged. Surveys conducted prior to 2012 asked respondents only if their business was up or down, so keep this in mind if you’re making comparions to results of that vintage.

The survey is an unscientific, online poll of American Coin-Op subscribers who operate stores. Some percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding or other factors.

HOW MUCH FOR A WASH?

Respondents were asked to report how much they charge for a variety of washes.

Roughly 63% of operators—slightly more than the 61% in the 2018 survey—offer top loaders at their store(s). The price range for a top-load wash is $1.25 to $3.75.

Here are the most popular top-load prices, followed by the percentage of respondents using them:

1. $2.50 (25.6%)

2. $2, $2.25 and $3 (tie, 10.3%)

2020 prices for a top loader compare favorably to the most popular prices of last year, although some shuffling has occurred. The top price of $2.50 is unchanged but last year’s No. 2 of $2.75 didn’t make the cut this year. 2020’s second most popular prices of $2 and $3 tied for third in 2019.

The most popular prices for some of the small front loaders are:

  • 18 pounds: $2

  • 20 pounds: $2.50

  • 25 pounds: $3

The lowest price reported in this group is $2 (18-pound washer) while the highest price is $6 (25-pound washer).

The price range for a 30-pound wash is $3 to $7. Following are the most popular 30-pound prices, along with the percentages of operators who use them:

1. $4 (24.3%)

2. $3.50 (16.2%)

3. $3.25, $4.25 and $4.50 (tie, 8.1%)

The price range for a 35-pound wash is $3 to $6. Following are the most popular 35-pound prices, along with percentages of operators who use them:

1. $4.50 and $5 (tie, 30.8%)

3. $4 and $6 (tie, 15.4%)

The price range for a 40-pound wash is $4 to $7.50. Following are the most popular 40-pound prices, along with the percentages of operators who use them:

1. $4.50 (17.8%)

2. $5.50 (13.3%)

3. $5 (11.1%)

The price range for a 50-pound wash is $4 to $7. Following are the most popular 50-pound prices, along with the percentages of operators who use them:

1. $5.50 (26.3%)

2. $7 (21.1%)

3. $6 (15.8%)

Prices for a 55-pound wash currently range from $6 to $9.

Of all the washer capacities, the 40-pounder and the 60-pounder have the broadest pricing, with 17 different base prices listed for each by respondents.

The price range for a 60-pound wash is $4.50 to $9. The most popular price is $6, charged by 12.8%. Second is a tie among $6.50, $7 and $8 (10.3% each).

Prices charged by operators for a 75-pound wash today range from as low as $8 to as high as $12. There is no clear No. 1 choice among this year’s respondents.

The price range for an 80-pound wash is $8 to $12. Following are the most popular 80-pound prices, along with percentages of operators who use them:

1. $9 (21.1%)

2. $10 and $10.50 (tie, 15.8%)

Prices charged by operators for a 90-pound wash today range from $9 to $14.25. For a 100-pound wash, the price range is $10 to $13.50.

Operators who respond to our unscientific survey vary year to year, which may reflect upon the variety of prices reported.

Respondents were asked to provide prices for front loaders of 14 traditional capacities, plus had the option to list others.

DRYER PRICES

Operators were asked to list their current prices for their dryers as “25 cents for X minutes.” As in previous years, a variety of responses was reported.

Most popular among this year’s respondents—at 28.6%—is 25 cents for 6 minutes (also the top choice in the previous three surveys). Second is 25-for-5 (27.0%) and third is 25-for-4 (15.9%). Missing from this year’s order of most popular dryer prices was 25-for-7, which was third in last year’s survey.

CHARGING MORE?

American Coin-Op asked respondents if they have already raised washer and/or dryer prices in 2020, or if they plan to do so before the end of the year.

Regarding washer prices, the majority of respondents (58.6%) say they have already raised prices, or intend to do so, by the end of 2020. Roughly 22% say they have no such plans, and the remaining 19.0% are undecided.

In support of their decision to increase prices, many operators say they implemented (or will implement) the increase to cope with higher costs, among them utilities, rent and labor. Many store owners report increasing prices annually based on their rising costs. But in some cases, it’s been two or three years since certain operators have raised prices.

Several respondents say purchasing new washers provided the perfect opportunity to increase those vend prices.

Regarding dryer prices, 59.3% say they have not raised prices, nor do they plan to do so by the end of the year. Twenty-two percent say they have raised, or plan to raise, their dryer prices. The remaining 18.6% are undecided.

Coming in Thursday's conclusion: Equipment purchasing trends and annual predictions

Miss previous parts of this story? You can read them here:

Part 1 — Audience breakdown; 2019 business vs. 2018

Part 2 — Drop-off, commercial and vending sales numbers, and the average turns per day