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Grow Your Laundry One Little Idea at a Time

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neon cleaning and laundy sign
Photo: ©iStockphoto/Jitalia17

Howard Scott |

Purple Neon Sign? Wash-Dry-Fold Deal? Name Your Machines?

PEMBROKE, Mass. — Just like your business grows one customer at a time, so you improve your operation by implementing one little idea after another. In time, your business becomes a different entity. It is little changes over time that makes the difference. Here, then, are a number of little ideas I’ve seen in different Laundromats that aren’t generally used, or little ideas told to me by others, or even little ideas that popped into my head.

HANG A PURPLE NEON SIGN IN YOUR FRONT WINDOW

Nothing attracts attention quite like purple neon. The sign could say “Open 6 to Midnight” or “We Clean Your Clothes” or simply “Laundromat.” Passer-bys will take notice, and the identification could result in new customers.

PUT A SANDWICH BOARD ON YOUR FRONT SIDEWALK

Have it professionally made. Offer a feature or a service or a price break. Better yet, put a rail on the sides of your sandwich board so ads can be added and removed at will. People walking by will take notice. You never know when this might mean something.

ANNOUNCE THAT YOU OFFER HIGH-QUALITY EQUIPMENT

Whenever you purchase some new equipment, put up a sign in your front window that reads “New Washers/Dryers” and “State-of-the-Art Equipment.”

One of the most common complaints about Laundromats is malfunctioning equipment. Coins get stuck, machines stops working, dryers have no heat, and washers don’t rotate clothes, that sort of thing. So, if you can become known as an operator who keeps his equipment in fighting trim, replacing older models regularly, this will give you an advantage in the market. The front-window sign reinforces that impression.

PLACE A WOODEN BENCH OUT FRONT

Give your customers a comfortable place to sit while waiting for their laundry to finish. Who knows, maybe two strangers will strike up a conversation. Maybe even people will become…friends. Laugh if you will, but who among us has not walked into a Laundromat with the hope of meeting someone special and finding romance. It is possible in such an environment because it’s hard to put on airs when you are doing a mundane task. I submit that if self-service laundries could further this image, they’d boost their patronage by 50%.

But whatever, a long bench out front is a nice place to wait on a mild, sunny day.

SELL THREE SIZES OF LAUNDRY BAGS

Laundromats that don’t sell laundry bags are missing a sales opportunity. Most Laundromats sell only one size, but different families have different needs. So, sell three sizes—at different price ranges of, say, $6, $8 and $10—and win extra business.

OFFER A DEAL FOR WASH-DRY-FOLD SERVICE

Most “Laundromateurs” charge a per-pound price—say $1 per pound. The customer does 15 pounds and pays $15. But how about incentivizing the offer? The first 8 pounds will cost the customer $8, and each additional pound will cost 69 cents (with a minimum order of 8 pounds). That way, the customer feels he/she is getting a deal. The same 15-pound order will cost $12.83 (8 pounds X $1 + 7 pounds X 69 cents). You’re losing $2 on this sale, but you will gain more total business.

For one thing, the customer will be happy to save money (in his/her mind) and will give you more laundry in future orders (“after all, it’s only 69 cents a pound”). Customers who haven’t tried your wash-dry-fold service will say, “What the heck, I might as well use their service instead of wasting my time here.” The loss in unit-sale dollars will result in total greater revenue. That is always the way sales incentives work.

HANG A LARGE CLOCK IN YOUR STORE

Sure, most people have cell phones and can just look at their gadget of choice to see the time. But not all of your customers have them. Why not make it easier for everyone to know what time it is? It is just a service you should provide.

GIVE MACHINES NAMES, NOT NUMBERS

Some of you don’t assign any machine identity. Others number their machines. How about giving each machine a name? You could name them after celebrities: Clooney, Madonna, Eastwood. Or professional athletes: Manning, Woods, Ortiz. Or just funky names: Orville, Fritz, Miranda. It’s a whimsical touch that might bring a smile to the face of your customer who comes to you and says, “Miranda isn’t working.”

SELL A VALUE CARD

Offer $10 worth of laundry for $8. Giving the customer a break is always a good strategy. It makes the customer appreciate you that much more. When someone has a problem, they’ll be more forgiving. When a new Laundromat opens up that is closer, your customer will remain loyal to your store.

PAINT A MURAL ON YOUR EXTERIOR SIDE WALL

Have an exterior wall that’s just a white rectangle? Select an artist, who, for a moderate sum, will paint an interesting mural the length of the side. What subject? If you are located in an ethnic neighborhood, choose a scene depicting the “old country.” If in a dull commercial area, paint a group of smiling, larger-than-life faces. If the spirit moves you/the artist, a vivid abstract will do. The point of the effort is to draw attention to your building, and thus to your Laundromat.

You ever have someone call up and ask, “Where is your place?” If you do, all you have to say, “I’m the building with the water mural.” Plus, you become an arts supporter, and that’s something you can use to rope in the arts community as customers.

SET UP A GLASS DISPLAY OF YOUR MERCHANDISE FOR SALE

Include all the detergent products in their colorful boxes, along with stain stick products, laundry bags, and whatever else you peddle. With a display case attractively arranged, patrons will have a look. You never know what might happen. If you sell soap bars (as an add-on), they might buy. They might purchase a box of detergent for next time. If you have a Laundromat decal, they might purchase that. The first rule of retail sales is to make it attractive.

If any of these ideas float your boat, give them a try. Even better, give them all a try.

About the author

Howard Scott

H&R Block

Industry Writer, Drycleaning Consultant, and H&R Block Tax Preparer

Howard Scott is a longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant, and an H&R Block tax preparer specializing in small businesses. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359.

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