GLENDALE, Ariz. — So, you’ve done your due diligence and decided to pull the trigger on opening a new mat. What store name is best for your particular market?

It depends on your strategy. But first, know this: 21% of adults in the United States (about 43 million) are functionally illiterate, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Since Laundromats cater to a customer base that is low-income, the illiteracy percentage probably goes up among that group.

And I wonder how many immigrants add to those numbers simply because they don’t speak English. (Tip: Use a translation app on your cell phone to speak with your non-English-speaking customers.)

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

How do you attract eyeballs that will be able to identify what kind of business they are passing? Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

If your mat is in a market like New York City, bilingual signs don’t cut it because so many different languages are spoken in that area.

Include a logo in your sign that looks like a washer or washers. It could even be a photo imprinted on your signs.

A lot of mats built in New York in the ’80s had signs with a drawing of three washers in descending order: a giant, a triple, and a double loader.

I’ve seen the “retro” look where some mats use a washboard as a logo, but some immigrants may not understand that modern washing machines, not scrub boards, can be found inside.

Make sure your windows are not blocked, and that your mat is well-lit inside so people can see what kind of store they are passing 24/7.

INDUSTRY, BUSINESS, TRADE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Industry Names — There are various styles of Laundromat industry names used all over the map. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Laundromat
  • Laundry
  • Coin-Op (hence, this publication)
  • Launderette
  • Laundrymat
  • Washateria, in Texas, named after the first Laundromat that opened there in 1934.
  • Wash & Dry; I remember reading years ago about a mat that had just that phrase for its main sign. The owner said it worked well, but I think that may depend on a particular market.

Business Names — A business name is the legal company name that you registered with the government.

Trade Names — Also called a DBA (“doing business as”), a trade name is the name used to operate the business. If your legal company name is satisfactory to show on all your signs and advertising, then you don’t need a DBA. However, you may be able to get a better name with a DBA.

NAMING STRATEGIES FOR BRANDING YOUR MAT

Subconscious motivations can make a difference. Did you know that the vast majority of analog clocks for sale are always advertised set at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to create an image of a smile? Stores do that because a smile creates a good feeling. I do think that even a name that is a little corny could be a draw if it is easy to remember and gives people a good feeling.

People often make decisions based on emotions rather than logic or common sense, I believe. Then we use our logic to justify our emotional response. Advertisers and politicians have known this for many decades. So if you can come up with a name that evokes a little positive energy, it can only help.

Taking Over — If you are taking over a run-down, dirty mat that most of the neighborhood does not like, a new name is definitely the way to go.

However, if you are taking over a quality mat that already has a happy clientele, then do not change the name! At least, not right away. Let them get to know you slowly. It may make sense to leave the name unchanged if the mat has a long, successful history using it. Make sure you can legally use the name when you buy the mat.

You can often use a DBA that is different than your company name, which is helpful. You can show a DBA to the public while keeping your company name under wraps. So if you want to change the name in the future, you can just change the DBA instead of having to rename the company behind it.

This is also a good strategy if you plan on opening more locations. You keep the DBA name on all your locations. If one location gets sued, the whole chain is not exposed to liability because each location should have a different corporation or LLC behind it.

After a City — If the mat is in a small- or medium-sized city, you may be able to name it after the city, if the name is not already taken (check not just in your immediate area but the entire state; if you incorporate, a name search will come with the process). Naming your mat after your city—for instance, Muskegon Laundromat, for the Michigan community—might inspire confidence and permanence.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!