CHICAGO — Like many service businesses, it benefits a vended laundry to be designed such that it’s comfortable for customers to move around in yet functional so they can easily and quickly wash, dry and fold their laundry. But there’s much more to laundry design than just scribbling locations for washers and dryers on a piece of paper. Visibility, workflow and security are just some of the variables that impact store layout and design.
This month, American Coin-Op invited representatives from several industry manufacturers and distributors to address the issues that an investor building a new store or an owner renovating a current store must face before “breaking ground.”
Q: What about store lighting? Anything special that one should be aware of here?
Russ Arbuckle, president, Wholesale Commercial Laundry Co., a Continental Girbau distributor: Bright, bright, bright! Light fixtures should be centered over aisleways and folding tables whenever possible.
Dion Marcionetti, owner, Laundry Concepts, a Continental Girbau and Huebsch distributor: Lighting is costly to operate and therefore needs to be looked at closely. There are an array of LED solutions that are efficient. A new product that is starting to make economic sense is a 2x4 drop-in, flat-panel LED light; they are efficient, bright and easy to keep clean. Keep in mind that there are rebates that are available from the utilities when purchasing high-efficiency lighting.
Kyle Pethke, laundry design specialist, Speed Queen: A store’s lighting is really where you can add character. The main key is to have excellent lighting to create a bright and welcoming appearance.
Kenny Hebert, vended laundry specialist, Pellerin Laundry Machinery Sales Co., a Milnor distributor: Bright, energy-efficient lighting adds to the laundry. Also, having a row of lights stay on 24 hours helps with security.
Chris Brick, regional sales manager, Maytag Commercial Laundry and ADC: Lighting in a coin store is extremely important. A well-lit environment provides an added sense of security, especially during later, typically darker hours, and contributes to the overall customer experience. When a store offers nice, bright lights, fewer garments are left behind and patrons can easily take note of how clean their clothes are after laundering.
Q: How does overall store security impact its design and layout, or vice versa?
Marcionetti: Security should always be a part of store layout. Avoiding designs that have alcoves or hidden areas, and having a large glass storefront, gives customers a sense of security. Keeping any money equipment away from straight access to a doorway is helpful. All of these things help make a store more secure.
Pethke: When designing a store, you want to maintain clear lines of sight and full visibility. Many times, with medium to large stores, attendants are present for extra store security, in addition to cameras. One way to lay out a store with better security is to have the washers run perpendicular to the front of the store. This allows for better visibility down the aisleways from the outside. In addition to this, the more windows present, the fewer blind spots available and the more secure the store will be.
Hebert: Keeping security in mind is important when laying out a laundry. You should always be able to see the entire laundry from the front door. Pay attention to preserved security details, lighting, cameras, secured change/card machines and visibility from the outside.
Brick: Providing customers with a sense of security is paramount to the long-term success of a vended laundry. A good layout will provide few hidden areas, which in turn makes customers feel safe. A brightly lit parking lot and bright interior lights will help deter theft and vandalism.
Arbuckle: In today’s world, it is an important piece of the overall design. Hidden corners, dark spots, etc. will absolutely make customers, especially women, wary. If they do not feel safe, they will not patronize the store. Open space with good visibility throughout is critical to the customer’s comfort level.
Q: While much of what’s been addressed is related to interior design, how might a store’s exterior influence how things are handled within?
Pethke: Windows can greatly affect the design and layout of a store. Windows are great for added natural lighting and security, but too many windows will leave you with few options for dryer placement. And the less space for dryers, the fewer washers you can add.
Parking is another item; if you have some parking in front but a majority in the back, you need to have a layout that takes into account the customers entering from the rear of the store. You want to make sure it’s as welcoming in the back as the front.
Hebert: Floor-to-ceiling windows would be ideal for advertisement and security.
Brick: Ample parking with easy access to laundry carts is imperative to keep customers happy—and happy customers are return customers. Ideally, a store has more than one point of entry and is equipped with automatic doors.
Arbuckle: Exterior design’s influence on the interior design relates mainly to storefront glass and how that impacts the store layout and equipment placement. Although a lot of storefront glass is preferable, in some cases, too much creates additional difficulties relative to design and construction costs.
Marcionetti: Exterior of the store needs to be well-lit and have an area that is safe so customers can get in and out of the store. Installing automatic doors is a great benefit, as our customers are normally loaded up coming and going to our store. Keep in mind that when leaving, they will remember the ease of entering and leaving the store. The convenience of off-street parking is a major factor in good-volume stores.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add regarding store layout and design?
Hebert: If the demographics are right, the location and buildout cost will dictate your overall layout and store design.
Brick: Store owners looking to enhance the overall customer experience should consider offering entertainment for their patrons—especially children. Supplying magazines, daily newspapers, TVs and free Wi-Fi provides a comfortable environment and, therefore, increases the likelihood of a repeat customer.
Arbuckle: Build the store for your customers! Over the years, we have had store owners who wanted the store design to meet their preferences, which were not always the potential customers’ preferences. Although the owners are writing the checks, the customers are paying the bills. Approach the layout and design as a store customer!
Marcionetti: After choosing your location and doing all the necessary work to determine the viability of the investment and deciding that the location will serve the customer and the investor, you move toward design. The layout/design is the most important part of the building process. It needs to be done by an experienced and reputable party. The location will only work if the design allows for the maximum use.
Pethke: One final note to consider is willingness to adjust. More often than not, ideas and concepts are already forming before the location is set, but every site will have different factors that will determine the layout and overall design of the store. Whether you have to work around utility or structural factors, the space you decide on will determine the layout, design and mix. There is no “one size fits all” option, and the ability to adjust as the design comes together will allow you to have the best store possible for your location.
If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.
If you missed Part 2, you can read it HERE.