CHICAGO — For the investor looking to own their first self-service laundry, or the store owner intent on adding another to their portfolio, choosing the right location to set up shop is one of the most important decisions they’ll make.
So what are some of the things to consider when searching for the best spot to open a laundromat?
BY THE NUMBERS
It’s vital to identify sites where a large enough share of the resident population would be potential customers. (If the demand isn’t there, then why supply the service?) Demographics can help paint a picture of the area under consideration. As defined by Merriam-Webster, demographics are “the statistical characteristics of human populations (such as age or income) used especially to identify markets.”
“Demographics are a snapshot of a given neighborhood,” says Bryan Maxwell from distributor Western State Design, during “Can’t-Miss Site Selection Strategies,” an episode of the American Coin-Op Podcast. “You can learn things about income level, family sizes, the ethnic makeup.”
Store location can significantly impact an operation’s success or failure rate, so there are a few key demographics to identify when examining sites. First, the service area being considered needs to have a significant share of renters. A good starting point is 35%.
Household size and income level are also important when it comes to demand potential. It’s recommended that the average household size in a considered location be at least 2.3 people with a low to medium income level. Lower-income households—earning less than $35,000 per year—are less likely to pay extra for an in-unit washer and dryer, thus making the area laundromat more attractive to them.
Neighborhoods that are heavy in multi-family housing and communal living—such as apartment complexes and trailer parks—offer great potential.
“How many renters live nearby?” Paul Russo asks rhetorically in his American Coin-Op column, “Important Factors for Reaching Laundry Success.” “Are they in apartment houses that have excellent laundry rooms? … What condition are those laundry rooms in? Clean or dirty? Old or new equipment? Do apartment dwellers feel safe in their laundry rooms?”
Demographics can also influence what machines, services and amenities a laundry should offer. If the nature of the local population shows it’s changing, that may also signal a need for the service or services being offered to change, too.
WHERE’S THE COMPETITION?
It might seem like one would want to stay away from competitors when searching for a site to open a business but the laundry industry is unique. Alliance Laundry Systems’ Dan Bowe advises looking for a spot that has some competition nearby already.
“You should actually be slightly wary of opening a store in a location where there’s no competition for miles; in that case, the surrounding demographics likely won’t match your criteria,” he writes in “Site Selection Strategies,” an American Coin-Op column.
“When you do identify an area that fits your core criteria, you can safely assume that plenty of others have done the same and are operating a successful laundry business.”
“I think a well-run store will attract new customers regardless of what the competition is,” Maxwell says. “But obviously, if there’s more competition, more quality competition, meaning stores that are well-run, it’s going to make your new venture more difficult.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .