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Creating the Ideal Store (Part 1 of 2)

Paul Partyka |

CHICAGO — It’s a new year, and it’s not unusual at this time to hope for a bit more success at your store. It doesn’t hurt to hope, but you would increase your odds for success with a little action.Take a close look at your laundry. Start with the exterior, and move to the interior. Is there some improvement that might catch the eye of a passerby? Is your business in need of a “homey” touch?Some of you are probably thinking, “That sounds good, but I don’t have the money to remodel.” There might be some ways to add some pizzazz to your store without emptying your wallet.MOVING FORWARDIn a recent AmericanCoinOp.com Wire survey, nearly 48 percent of respondents said they believe operators can best improve the industry by making some improvements at their store.First things first. If your store’s exterior appearance is lacking, people will probably think that the interior is lacking, too.Here are some exterior concerns:

  • Do you have cluttered or “bulletin-board” windows?
  • Do you have decent visibility from the road?
  • Is your attractive storefront offset by weeds or trash?
  • Is your signage in good shape?
  • Can people read your signage and know that you have a Laundromat?
  • Is your exterior in need of a fresh coat of paint?
  • Does your exterior convey a feeling of security?
  • Can passersby view your interior through the windows?

There are also plenty of potential improvements when it comes to the interior. Everyone knows the importance of having a clean store with working equipment. What else needs attention?

  • Is the interior in need of a fresh coat of paint?
  • Is it time for a new floor?
  • Can neon add to the interior appearance?
  • Is your store bright enough?
  • Do you have enough seating?

These are just some of the questions that need to be answered. We asked distributors from across the country to comment on the importance of making store improvements, be they minor or major.EXTRA SERVICES ADD CUSTOMERS, REVENUEWhen Walt Shay, Automated Laundry Systems, Jacksonville, Fla., approaches a laundry, the first thing he focuses on is the windows. “I don’t like it if you can’t see through the windows,” Shay says. “The signage also catches my eye.”Shay warns against having too much wording on the windows. “A minimal amount of wording is probably optimal.”While there may not be much one can do about a lack of parking, if you are considering a new location, Shay stresses the importance of avoiding business neighbors that take up all the parking. “If you drive by a laundry [and the parking spots are taken], this will hurt. People want to park in front of the store.”Three interior “musts” are good lighting, air conditioning and a secure environment. Shay also prefers to see some unique touches. “One guy put some fish on the wall, another put up old washboards. Things like this make you stand out. Stencils and painting can help. Neon [lighting] might help. Unique sells.”If you are thinking about a paint job, he suggests bright colors.Shay is also a proponent of ancillary services — to increase customer interest and revenue. “Extra services like check cashing can get more people into the store. I have seen some Internet kiosks, and creative ways to sell video games and other ancillary services.”In larger laundries, the emphasis should be on creating a better drop-off service area and doing more with customer comfort, he adds.ATTENDANTS A MUST?“When I approach a store, the first thing I notice is cleanliness, and whether the exterior is run down, there are cracks in the window, decorations are peeling, and if the opening/closing times are shown,” says Tom Millman, Washtime Industries, Greeley, Colo.More specifically, Millman urges operators to check for cracked brick. It’s the little things on the exterior that can attract or drive away customers, he adds. “I also like bright colors on the outside, and make sure your sidewalk is fixed.”On the interior, keep your lighting up to date. “When I look into the store, I check if it’s dark or dingy. Do I want to go in? I was a cop for 20 years; I know what places I would go into and what places I wouldn’t.”It helps to put up decorations for holidays and the changing of seasons, he says. “If you do this, people will come in more. More comfortable seating and extra TVs are good. If possible, replace benches with couches.”Bright colors and an open design never hurt. Adding plants on the bulkheads also create a homey atmosphere, he believes.It never hurts to be creative. Millman recalls working on a combination laundry, car wash and dog wash. The entrance to the dog wash (separate from the laundry entrance) resembles a dog house.Is there an even simpler solution to attracting more people? Millman is an advocate of attendants. “I won’t go into an unattended store, and I wouldn’t want my family to enter an unattended store.”In assessing area stores, he still sees a lack of cleanliness as the major flaw. “We harp on cleanliness to the operators, but they still don’t keep the stores clean.”Looking ahead, successful stores will offer more services, he predicts, and demographics will always play a key role in what “special” touches are needed.Please check back Friday, Dec. 31, for Part 2 of this story. 

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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