You are here

Finding Success by Sidestepping Pitfalls (Part 1)

Avoiding laundry ownership perils on your way to profit, peace of mind

CHICAGO — For the investor considering self-service laundry ownership, there are lots of questions to be answered while on the path to opening a store. And the last thing he/she wants to do is fall victim to a stumbling block that could have been avoided.

Sidestepping common pitfalls such as inadequate maintenance, poor cleanliness and ineffective marketing can be crucial for sustaining success.

Regularly seeking insights from seasoned professionals, staying up to date on industry trends, and actively addressing customer feedback can also contribute to long-term profitability and customer satisfaction.

American Coin-Op invited representatives from some of the industry’s vended laundry equipment makers to identify some missteps or errors they frequently see occurring as newcomers try to establish themselves and their businesses. These experts offered their insights specific to certain steps along the store creation and development path.


Allen Berndt, a regional sales manager for Dexter Laundry: Everyone wants a high-profile location with good traffic but there is such a thing as having too much traffic. High traffic counts can limit your entry and exit access. It is important to remember that the average customer is a woman with children and is carrying a large load of laundry. If she is forced to park too far from the facility and battle cross traffic in the parking lot, it may be easier for her to choose a laundromat with easier access. A few ways to accommodate customers in high-traffic parking lots would be to have reserved parking or designated loading and unloading zones.

Mike Hand, vice president of North America Commercial Central and East for Alliance Laundry Systems: Investors sometimes will ignore site red flags such as poor visibility, poor parking, ingress/egress and lease length in placing greater weight on the lease rate. This strategy will almost always backfire. Your distributor and manufacturer-based finance experts act as extra sets of eyes in reviewing site elements and demographics to help ensure a successful business from the start.

Tod Sorensen, general manager of Girbau North America distributor Continental Girbau West: Before you commit to a location/building, ask your equipment solutions distributor to check it out and provide feedback. They are the experts in vended laundry development. If they see a red flag related to your site selection, they’ll let you know. If one of the following isn’t favorable—lease, ingress, egress and visibility—it disqualifies your location.


Hand: Some new investors look to cut upfront costs by setting a plan to “add that later.” In virtually every instance I’ve seen, the owner regrets that decision. So, do it right the first time; don’t “stage it out.”

Sorensen: When considering customer personal space and flow, there are three fundamental stations in laundry, not including enter, exit and the service counter. Be sure there is ample workflow from wash to dry to folding stations. It must be an uninterrupted customer flow pattern at what would be peak capacity.

Berndt: With new stores, make sure you are planning for optimal customer flow. This includes making the aisles as wide as you can to accommodate customers during your busiest times. When retooling existing stores, make sure you know what your long-term goals are to ensure you don’t limit your ability to add or replace machines down the road.


Sorensen: Utility expenses are a laundry owner’s largest monthly expense and, as an owner, you have no control over them other than to make wise equipment choices. Making an equipment decision on price alone will cost you more over time than the one-time purchase of high-performance laundry equipment.

High-performance laundry equipment can save you thousands in installation costs because hard-mount washers require added concrete and heavy metal base frames and bolts. High-performance machines deliver lower operating costs over time and generate more revenue through cycle options, ozone, extra add-ons and faster customer rotation rates. Simultaneously, those high-performance machines, with added revenue generators, will set your store apart from the competition and draw customers from apartment laundries.

Berndt: Working with a distributor that has financing support provides options for owners to acquire their equipment. Whether you purchase or lease equipment, your distributor will help provide guidance on what may be best for your situation. When determining equipment mix, make sure you understand your customer base and demographics. Most laundromat customers gravitate toward the larger machines to expedite the processing of their laundry. Smaller washers are also still suggested for customers with smaller loads of laundry.

Hand: The biggest mistake is ignoring the value of a full-service distributor. Owners who buy strictly on lowest price, and discount the importance of a distributor who installs and services equipment with in-house staff, are at a supreme disadvantage. Work with a reputable full-service distributor with ample references and experience in the vended laundry market.

In Part 2 coming Tuesday: Wash/dry pricing, and maintenance and cleaning

Finding Success by Sidestepping Pitfalls

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].