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Dry Cleaner Can Create ‘One-Stop Shop’ by Adding Coin Laundry (Part 1)

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BEST cleaners
BEST Cleaners & Laundry, Spring Hill, Fla., offers coin laundry and dry cleaning services in the same building. (Photo: Alliance Laundry Systems)

Jason Fleck |

SPRING HILL, Fla. — A successful dry cleaning business can provide you with solid profits, but what if you’re looking to take your business to the next level? Adding a coin-operated Laundromat may not be the first idea that comes to mind, but there are many reasons it should.

Mike Cowart opened BEST Cleaners & Laundry here in 2007. It’s the only dual dry cleaning plant and coin laundry operation in the community of 100,000 residents. It’s been so successful that Cowart recently added a second location.

Keeping BEST Cleaners & Laundry’s success in mind, there are several areas where you should focus your efforts when planning an addition.

OPERATIONAL AND CUSTOMER DIFFERENCES

In a dry cleaning operation, skilled employees are trained in the proper pre-spotting, cleaning and finishing of garments, with little to no customer involvement in the process.

At a coin laundry facility, however, customers perform most, if not all, of the duties. Some stores employ attendants to monitor the operation and possibly perform wash, dry and fold services for additional revenue.

Dry cleaning customers generally have higher disposable incomes and own their own homes with washers and dryer. In today’s housing market, however, there are more renters, which is the largest customer base for coin-laundry operators.

“Co-locating an upscale Laundromat with dry cleaning allows an operator to appeal to a much broader audience than two separate entities,” says Cowart. In addition, customers of all demographics are interested in services such as alterations and cleaning as well as preserving wedding dresses and items with sentimental value.

After understanding how the businesses differ, consult with a local laundry equipment distributor to help you determine whether a self-serve Laundromat will complement your existing dry cleaning operation.

BUSINESS EVALUATION

Cowart says the most difficult part of opening his coin laundry facility was ensuring all criteria to build a successful operation were present. This included the proper demographic location and suitable leasehold or owned buildings, understanding the business model, planning the facility layout, and procuring the right equipment.

Luckily, potential owners have valuable resources available to help guide this process: distributors. Through their experiences and direct manufacturer connections, distributors are experts in the field and can provide dry cleaning plant owners with prized insight into the coin laundry industry, which may be a completely unfamiliar business.

They can help potential owners evaluate the market demographics and local competition and determine an estimated cash flow for any given site. While not a perfect science, these tools take some of the guesswork out of the location’s potential success.

Cowart turned to Huebsch® distributor Dennis Leto of Commercial Laundries of West Florida to help with this process. In addition to his counsel on demographics and local-market competition, Leto helped Cowart secure the necessary resources through the manufacturer to help plan, lay out and procure state-of-the-art, efficient machines.

EFFICIENT EQUIPMENT

A dual operation means a dual investment, so selecting machines that provide reduced utility costs through efficient technology is a must. Keeping this in mind, manufacturers have created washer-extractors that come standard with features such as 200 G-Force to remove more water for shorter drying times and lower energy bills.

Unfortunately, some machines available on the market are essentially home products with a coin meter installed on them. As there’s nothing commercial grade about the unit, there’s nothing efficient about the technology.

Selecting efficient machines is not only important for your bottom line and attracting customers to the facility, but it also can make a dry cleaning operation more efficient.

Cowart can also run the garments that require wet cleaning through the coin-operated washers. The equipment he selected has 24 fully customizable cycles that allow him to tailor a cycle to his specific needs.

By using machines equipped with 200-G-force options, Cowart’s staff can quickly complete the necessary wet cleaning techniques prior to laundry customers arriving on site. This option can save considerable time on drying loads.

Distributors can also help with identifying financing options available through the manufacturer. That way, the profits you’ve accumulated from the dry cleaning business don’t need to be completely reinvested to purchase the most efficient and durable laundry equipment.

LOCATION

Not every dry cleaning plant makes a good location for a coin laundry facility, and vice versa. Two important factors to consider include the geographic location and the physical building.

If your location is in a high-income area, adding coin laundry to your operation may not be the best idea. This is why working with a distributor is so important. Such a partner can provide guidance on whether your current location is ample, or if you should consider relocating altogether.

By adding a self-service laundry facility to your operation, you’re expanding your customer reach. When doing so, you need to plan accordingly and make sure the space is large enough to accommodate the additional machines. Due to the added space needed, laundry operations are more commonly added to a dry cleaning plant vs. a drop-off location.

Although it may seem insignificant, one location factor that investors need to keep in mind when adding laundry to their mix is parking. If the current plant has minimal parking, adding a laundry facility to service 15 to 20 people at once may be problematic and become a pain point for customers. The last thing a customer wants to do is haul their laundry across the street or shopping center.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

About the author

Jason Fleck

Huebsch

Regional Sales Manager

Jason Fleck is a regional sales manager for Huebsch, an Alliance Laundry Systems brand, specializing in vended laundry investment, development, renovation and acquisition. He can be contacted at Jason.Fleck@alliancels.com.

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