It’s an exciting time for any self-service laundry owner when plans are under way for a new store. There’s plenty to do, with one of the major concerns being store design.Some customers believe that all laundries look alike. Owners know better. The store design, to a great extent, reflects the image the owner wants to convey. But store design goes much further than equipment placement. A host of factors determine “the lay of the land” when it comes to your new laundry.Here are just some of the things that need to be considered when designing a new store. The information was submitted by operators, distributors and manufacturers.EQUIPMENT PLACEMENTSince there is no agreed-on “ideal” equipment mix, we can shift the emphasis to equipment placement. The consensus is that you should place your larger equipment near the front door. There are a number of reasons why this should be done:
- Some believe that it’s critical for customers to be able to see the entire store from the outside (for safety reasons). With this in mind, visibility can be lost with the largest machines in the back.
- Customers often like to drop their large loads when they enter the store. And since customers often prefer the largest machines, it’s more convenient to have this equipment near the door. (Attendants may have to make sure that people aren’t blocking aisles.)
- Putting the largest front loaders up front, especially if you have plenty of windows to showcase them, is the way to go because you can impress passersby with the equipment.
- Putting the largest equipment up front also prevents customers from wandering around the store looking for the largest equipment, in addition to seeking out attendants to ask about the availability of the largest equipment.
- Your largest equipment has the highest vend prices. Do you want to quickly satisfy customers ready to spend $6 or $7 for a washer?
Some favor keeping the larger equipment in back. Their reasons revolve around keeping the larger washers near dryers for customer convenience and not having customers blocking the aisle up front as they use the store’s most popular machines.It’s also important not to get so tied up in the placement concerns that you ignore service considerations. This also relates to aisle space. If you give your customers too much space, it could lead to an inadequate or cramped service area. This is trouble because your equipment will need service or maintenance at some time. Some recommend keeping 2 feet clear behind the washers and dryers. Check with the equipment manufacturer and your distributor to see what makes the most sense for your location.One other warning: If you don’t have adequate service space, you may have trouble keeping a good repairman. And if you persuade the repairman to work in “cramped” conditions, it may end up costing you more than you think.SAFE AND SECUREWhen you design your new store, it’s only natural to think about creating a comfortable store. Some customers equate comfort with feeling secure.While area demographics may indicate that a neighborhood can be profitable, the information might also indicate that it’s a “rough” neighborhood. With this in mind, there are several steps you might want to take.
- Talk with the managers of nearby fast-food restaurants or convenience stores about security-related issues. How have they dealt with any neighborhood problems?
- Chat with the local police.
- Make sure your laundry has good sight lines from the street. Eliminate the dead areas that attendants can’t see.
- Consider putting the largest machines in the back so customers can see the whole laundry.
- Don’t skimp on security. During the design process, pick out a spot for the surveillance cameras. Make it an obvious location. Use signage to inform people that cameras are present.
- Good lighting is imperative to customers and employees feeling safe. You may need to double the normal lighting in some situations, but it can be worth it.
- If you fear that your store may become a spot for drug transactions, think about installing a drywall ceiling in the bathroom to prevent this. Bathrooms with drop ceilings are a haven for drug activity. Also, a card reader on the bathroom door can deter illegal activity.
- A cashless card system can prevent some theft/vandalism problems. (For more information about the coin/cashless debate, see the July issue of American Coin-Op.)
EXTRA-PROFIT CENTERSIf you’re thinking about maximizing revenue at your new store, the thought of extra-profit centers has probably crossed your mind more than once. There are a host of ways to get your “captive” customers to spend a little extra money at your store. With this in mind, it wouldn’t hurt if your laundry design reflects the importance of extra-profit centers.If you’re going to emphasize some of the larger vending machines, offering a larger variety of food and drink, you might think more about space allocation. Where will these venders go?If something a bit more elaborate, such as tanning beds or a small food counter, is on your mind, this will require extra space and more planning.The more traditional extra-profit center is drop-off service. Some owners may not want this service because it will require an attendant, but it’s still the industry’s No. 1 extra-profit center.How will this service affect your design? Owners often believe that you need to designate an area of the laundry for drop-off work. This area can vary in size depending on the amount of space available. The key is that if you are going to offer an extra service, let the people know about it!In some cases, owners have created a special counter area for drop-off work. Certain areas of the store have also been reserved for this service. For example, you can target a group of washers, at off-hours, to handle the drop-off work. These washers may be located in the back of the store so attendants can do the work without customers congregating around the machines.You might consider putting in a rack and leaving enough room to hang the finished work. If you are thinking about tackling commercial accounts in the future, this may require even more room.DECISIONS, DECISIONSIf you thought that only a couple of factors went into a good laundry design, this story was probably an eye-opener. When you first tackle store design, it’s easy to focus only on putting in some equipment and wondering where the customer seating will go.When you go beyond satisfying the basic design needs, the challenge really begins. Taking the time out to consider some of the things mentioned in this article can keep you ahead of the competition, and also save money.The quest for the ideal store design is a never-ending task.Click here to read Part 1 of this story.