CHICAGO — Full-service laundry equipment distributors can offer many benefits to their store owner customers.
While a laundromat owner’s relationship with his or her primary distributor may not make or break the business, this connection can prove helpful in many ways, particularly when the laundry business is just getting started. It’s about finding common ground and building a rapport that lifts both parties.
Retired American Coin-Op columnist Howard Scott once called the store owner-distributor relationship one of the most “pivotal” for what the distributor can produce beyond providing products and equipment in a timely fashion.
“He can be your eyes and ears to the industry,” Scott writes. “He can be a sounding board as well as adviser. He can help you solve some sticky problems. He can help you run your marketing events. He can even point to good potential employees in the industry. The key is how you develop your distributor relationship.”
TRAITS TO LOOK FOR
Before going about the work of forging a relationship with a distributor, it’s wise for an investor or store owner to seek out a respected business with the hallmarks of quality. Here are some traits to look for:
- It’s Well Established — How long has the distributor been in business? Does it have an established history of providing equipment and services? Is it financially stable? Has it actively sold or rehabbed vended laundries in the last few years?
- It’s Capable of Data Collection and Analysis — Can it provide information on demographics? Is it familiar with the competition near a potential store site? Can it identify location options? Can it calculate revenue potential and assist in creating a vend pricing strategy?
- It Can Assist with Financing — Does it work with commercial laundry manufacturing partners that offer in-house finance programs? Does it otherwise have relationships with lenders familiar with the unique needs of laundry businesses?
- It Can Design a Laundromat Layout — Does it have access to laundry design services if assistance is required beyond an architect and general contractor? Can it suggest an equipment mix based on the store design and the owner’s operational goals?
- It Can Build a New Store or Remodel an Existing One — Does it have experience developing construction plans and working and communicating with a contractor on a daily basis during a new build, a renovation or a retrofit?
- It Understands the Logistics of Opening a Laundromat — Can the distributor orchestrate all the details that go into getting a new store up and running?
- It’s Well Versed in Laundry Operations — Does it have operational knowledge on how a laundromat runs and how certain changes may be implemented to improve said operations?
- It Gathers and Shares Business-Building Information — Does it host events designed to share pertinent information about industry best practices and the latest management and operations trends? Does it host events or schedule store tours to display and demonstrate the newest equipment it’s selling for the manufacturer?
- It Provides Service After the Sale — Does it continue to support the equipment it represents well after the sale? Does it service equipment in accordance with the manufacturer warranty? Does it offer original manufacturer (OEM) parts?
- It Strives to Look Ahead at What’s Next — Does it continually track industry trends and influences? Does it offer opinions on what the future of self-service laundry operations may be?
Once you have a distributor in mind, before making any decision about relationship building, ask it for references. A distributor confident in its abilities won’t hesitate to direct you to other store owners it serves or has served.
And don’t hesitate to reach out to other store owners in the area or region yourself about their experiences with the company you’ve identified.
Check back Tuesday for the conclusion!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].