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Extra, Extra

Paul Partyka |

CHICAGO — Some have spent years searching for treasures, such as the Holy Grail. In the coin laundry industry, the search has always been for the successful extra profit center. Sure, everyone knows about wash, dry and fold. It’s the No. 1 coin laundry extra profit service. But there has to be something else, something that’s a perfect fit for a laundry; a service or product that will have waiting laundry customers reaching for their wallets or purses.Some extra profit services have come and gone. If there’s one thing we have learned, it’s that for every failed extra profit center, there’s a new one just waiting to be launched by an eager operator.Here are just some of the ways that coin laundry operators have tried to generate a few extra dollars from their stores in recent years. Who knows, maybe something will catch your eye and launch your operation in a new, profitable direction.FOOD FOR THOUGHTA Louisiana 2,400-square-foot coin laundry added a deli to the operation. The deli offers the traditional fast-food fare (hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers, etc.) along with area specialties such as po-boy sandwiches. There is even seating for about 20 diners. One cook runs the entire deli section, including handing out the food.In keeping with New Orleans tradition, a certain lunch is always offered on specific days. A special promotion, listed on the menu, gives the diners a quarter discount on a wash.The owner estimates that for every 10 diners, three or four are also wash customers. The rest of the crowd strictly visits the coin laundry for the food.Offering a large selection of food, as opposed to just vended food, raises certain questions. First, would you be bothered by “mixing” laundry customers with food customers? Would the “dining” customers somehow bother the people washing and drying?COFFEE ANYONE?Customers at a South Carolina laundry are offered a good cup of coffee — actually several good cups of coffee. The laundry, which is just under 5,000 square feet, offers 24 espresso flavors daily (there are 36 flavors total, but not all are prepared daily). Croissants, bagels, rolls and muffins complement the drinks, and there is even a deli. For those with a sweet tooth, brownies, cookies, layer cake and pie are available. A dip candy and ice cream case was added to the store; peanut butter and jelly is even available for the kids.The owner says that 80 percent of the customers at the coffee bar and deli come from the wash side. The total food/drink space is 20 feet by 50 feet with the bakery area being part of the equation. The bar is 35 feet long.HERE COMES THE BRIDEA Connecticut operator tried something a bit different with his 2,425-square-foot store and 700 square feet of mezzanine space. Customers enter through a foyer decorated with vintage clothing, and wedding gowns are also on display.The owner turned the mezzanine into a wedding-gown restoration business, handling wholesale accounts. To relieve the boredom of washing clothes, customers are able to watch the gowns being restored.CLEANING CARS, CLEANING CLOTHESWhat better to do while waiting for your clothes than to wash your car? It all goes together, doesn’t it? Quarters and cleaning? That was the plan for a father and son team.The men opened a 4,200-square-foot laundry to go along with a six-bay, self-service car wash. For those who want to simply “tidy” up their car instead of washing it, vacuuming facilities are set up in both the front and back of the car wash.It’s estimated that a typical four-bay car wash would require a lot size of approximately 100 feet by 150 feet. However, each community has its own requirements regarding building set-backs, curb cuts, off-street stacking, landscaping, etc.If you were going to delve into the car wash world, an automatic wash might be something to consider. This wash, as opposed to the self-service wash, requires no customer labor. In addition, you can charge more for an automatic wash than the typical self-service wash.However, an automatic wash is considered to be more maintenance-intensive than a self-service wash and is more expensive.PICK A SNACK, ANY SNACKWhile coin laundry operators have dabbled with restaurant- and deli-style offerings, there is a way to bring non-vended food into a laundry on a much smaller scale. An operator can simply purchase a specific food-related unit such as a cotton candy machine, popcorn popper, snow cone machine, hot dog grill or nacho warmer.If you offer a limited amount and type of food, your space requirements are greatly reduced and you can still turn a profit. More importantly, your total investment will be far less.Nachos definitely seem to be a popular snack today. A nacho warmer/merchandiser, for example, might be around 12 inches wide by 15 inches deep. A unit like this might have the capacity for about 50 servings.MAIL CALLWhile e-mail continues to grow in popularity, the traditional mail process is still an important part of everyday living. The incorporation of mail handling has proven successful for some coin laundries.If handled correctly, this add-on business should require no additional help, very little space and no inventory. It should also attract repeat customers while requiring a relatively small, one-time investment. Being a private postal center (PPC) is something to think about.A newly established postal center can attract a variety of customers including small businesses that operate from P.O. Box numbers. In addition, the daily flow of people checking their mail may give your laundry services high visibility and create new customers.The only major investment for this service is the purchasing of the boxes themselves. You will, of course, need someone to sort and load the mail into the boxes, as well as a form from the U.S. Postal Service that allows the delivery of the mail through an agent.ANY TIME IS A GOOD TIMEIf you offer drop-off services such as wash, dry and fold as well as drop-off drycleaning, it might be time to think about a way to generate more business.With an after-hour depository, busy customers can drop off clothes at your store at any time. If there are no other stores in the area offering a 24-hour drop service, the first store to offer this service could pick up some additional business.One way to determine the viability of such an investment is to survey your customers. Surveying your laundry customers is never a bad idea, it shows them that you value their opinions and you may be surprised at what they have to say.Depositories are designed to help retain repeat business, gain more customers and make your drop-off operation more efficient.NICE TANDid you ever wonder how a co-worker got a great tan in the middle of winter?Some distributors have referred to tanning as one of the more profitable extra services in recent times.There is plenty of tanning equipment available; finding the ideal match for your store will take some time. In addition to acquiring a tanning bed, you will also need to construct a tanning room, do some wiring and put an outside timer inYou may also be able to lease your tanning equipment.As for maintenance, it’s recommended that you clean the bed after every session. Dusting should also be done occasionally.Generally, tanning sessions vary in time from 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Operators are urged to consider offering one-, five- and ten-session packages as well as 30-, 60- and 90-day packages. What the operator charges can vary greatly depending on location and equipment used. (An average session charge might be in the $4 to $6 price range.While people can work on their tans at any time, it has been said that the busiest tanning months are January through June. Operators can make the bulk of their money during those months, and marketing programs can be used to increase income and offset the slower months.A LITTLE FUN WHILE YOU ARE WAITINGIf you want to start a debate among coin laundry owners, ask them about the pros and cons of adding video games to the store.If you’re undecided about this topic, maybe there is some room for compromise. Your laundry might be the ideal place for “coin-op amusement,” such as impulse-type games, weight scales and toy venders that are geared toward younger children.Impulse games such as fortunetellers and “love” meters are fast to play and don’t emphasize violent themes. Plus, they usually don’t take the space that a traditional video game requires.SUCH A DEALThis may qualify as one of the more unusual extra profit services, especially with space considerations at coin laundries a issue. It's all about selling things. Who doesn't like a yard sale?One Rhode Island operator started with an Internet cafe. He eventually discontinued the business and additional space opened up at the store. While deciding how to utilize the extra space, the owner thought about the popularity of yard sales and garage sales. The owner decided to let laundry customers use the cafe space to sell their used merchandise. He calls it a “consignment store.”Buying and selling is conducted in a 1,200-square-foot area, and the majority of the merchandise sold comes from customers. The owner takes 30 percent of the sale price, and even sells clothing that customers leave behind.Since there is an area between the laundry and consignment store, the owner doesn’t believe that the laundry customers are disturbed. He also says the unique business brings in new people to the store, some of which he converts to regular coin laundry customers.DROP-OFF SERVICE: A WHOLE NEW LEVELAn Indiana operator with two laundries watched his drop-off service grow, and decided to branch out. He added a van, with the company logo on it, and sent out letters to businesses, such as fast-food restaurants, soliciting drop-off work.Contacts were made with schools, and baseball and football uniforms were cleaned. This was beneficial in another way. The sports uniforms gave the coin laundry an opportunity to experiment with cleaning procedures.The commercial accounts continued to grow with more fast-food restaurants being added as well as clothing from doctors’ and dentists’ offices.At one point, this operation had 32 commercial accounts being handled on a weekly basis. (This didn’t include seasonal work such as sports uniforms or the company’s large uniform account.CASH ON HANDWhile there’s no such thing as a “sure” thing, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that many people have ATM cards.Even if space is a problem at your store, the newer ATMs are designed with a small footprint in order to take up less space.An ATM may boost any additional extra profit services you offer by putting cash in the hands of your customers. An ATM is also an extra profit center to your business, as it generates income on each transaction.When looking for an ATM provider, it is suggested that you look for a company that will be a partner in growing your business. Seek out a company that will provide the best machine and services available.IT DOESN'T HURT TO BE WIREDIf you follow business- and computer-related news, you have probably heard about Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity). Wi-Fi enables laptop computer users to access the Internet wirelessly.If you provide a Wi-Fi hotspot in your laundry, college students and other laptop users can check their e-mail and surf the Internet. More importantly, every time someone connects, you earn revenue.To offer Wi-Fi, you would need to install a base station (little space required) and have a high-speed Internet connection at the laundry.CLEAN — AND FIX — THOSE CLOTHESIf people clean their clothes at your store, wouldn’t they be interested in one-stop shopping — alterations and repairs?If you decide to go this route, consider offering basic repairs and alterations such as putting in a zipper, adding a button or doing some hemming on slacks or a shirt.An alterations/repair area could require about 100 to 150 square feet of space. The keys to running a successful department include promoting the service and knowing how long each job takes.Most customers generally spend about $15 to $20 on these services, according to an industry source.LAUNDRY AND A MOVIESimilar in size to an ATM, DVD kiosks can hold up to 350 titles. Operated as a franchise, some companies offer hosting opportunities to business locations, limiting the amount of cash vested in the operation.Customers can turn to video stores for DVD rentals, but with today’s time constraints, picking up a movie while doing the laundry shouldn’t be out of the question. With a DVD kiosk, inventory is self-managed and the kiosk operates with a credit card so there is no cash in the machine. The machines are also designed to prevent break-ins and damage.NOSTALGIA: A DRIVING FORCEWhat kind of video game could generate a profit in your laundry? An old game. The gaming classics of yesteryear are said to be pulling in quarters. Games such as Pac-Man and Galaga can be offered in the same unit. Since people are familiar with these games, they may not be shy about investing some money to recapture gaming memories.If space is a concern, you can even get up to nine games in one cabinet.In order to turn a profit, operators are urged to rotate the games every three months or so. In addition, look at different management options, such as splitting the profits with the game company rather than purchasing the games outright. It’s also probably easier to let the game distributor handle the maintenance as well.FIND SOMETHING THAT YOU LIKEIf you’re thinking about taking the extra profit center plunge, do some research. Find out if your customers share your enthusiasm about any new product/service.One last thing: when you find the ideal extra profit service, please let us know! 

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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