CHICAGO — Phil Arvin and his two partners opened their first Maytag-equipped coin laundry in Memphis, Tenn., last March. The 5,000-square-foot attended store is equipped with new energy-efficient 60- and 80-pound washers that are much larger than those in competing stores and thus could command a higher vend price, Arvin says.
But the group followed the suggestions of distributor Justin Laundry and established prices that are comparable to the laundries nearby, Arvin says. “Even though we’re offering a much higher quality product, we didn’t want to be perceived as the higher priced place.”
This is just one example of how the market can influence a laundry’s pricing strategy. But other factors are at work, too, and there are some basic premises that the self-service laundry operator should keep in mind when establishing or changing vend prices.
Your Competitor Has Undercut You – Now What?
And whether it happens intentionally or not, there is likely to come a time when a competitor will undercut you in price. Then you have a decision to make.
“If an owner is convinced that for the type of wash and dry they’re offering, the atmosphere, the other services, that they’re charging fairly, they should probably make the decision to give it some time and see if customers recognize that value and come back,” says Kevin Hietpas, vice president of sales and marketing for Dexter. He suggests giving it a month before acting.
Like any battle, a price war requires a strategy, Gauthier says. Neutrality is one strategy that allows the store owner to focus on their strengths while letting the competitor take the financial hit. But, neutrality isn’t always an option.
“Strategies are best developed after understanding a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Gary Gauthier, national sales manager, vended laundries, Milnor Laundry Systems. “For instance: Is their equipment mix weak? Maybe offering—and promoting—the right size machines for your market is the key. In a margin-based industry like vended laundries, price decreases should only be considered as a last—and short-term—step.”
“A store owner needs to provide his customers with assurance that they are getting the best service, equipment and experience money can buy,” says Kent Walters, national sales manager for Maytag/Whirlpool Commercial Laundry. “If a competitor in the area is charging less for a similar service, the store owner needs to tout the reasons why his/her store is worth spending the extra money.”
In this type of situation, the opinion of a neutral third party is invaluable, he says.
“Ask someone to visit your store, talk to the customers and provide feedback. Why would a customer pay more for your coin store? What are the perks of your store vs. the competition? This information can help an owner accurately illustrate the experience customers receive at his/her store.”