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The Idea Exchange (Part 1 of 2)

Paul Partyka |

Looking for a few good ideas? Does your laundry need a little fine-tuning? Are you looking to expand? We covered a wide variety of topics in American Coin-Op this year. As a busy owner, it’s not unusual to miss a story now and then. Maybe a brief recap is in order.With this in mind, here’s a quick look back at some of the more interesting ideas/information presented in American Coin-Op this year.CHARTING THE EXPANSION COURSENext to opening your first store, adding a second location is the hardest transition, Rob Bodner, president of EFR, believes.Before you make any decisions, you have to ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • Are you willing to give up some level of control?
  • What distance between the stores is too far?
  • What if both stores are coin-operated?

Once you’re serious about a location, get an accurate snapshot of the business. Find out what type of money is being generated. Review two years of utility bills, if possible. These expenditures should total roughly 25% of what the owner claims the business is generating.In addition, review competitors in the area, and visit other area businesses. Review your lease. If you are planning to retool, Bodner suggests not making a move without a 15-year lease. Don’t be afraid to sit down with the landlord and renegotiate lease terms.Lastly, ask one final question: Are you adding a second location just to expand, or is this a move to try and capture your entire market?A LITTLE IMPROVEMENT CAN’T HURTManufacturers, distributors and operators offered suggestions on ways to improve the industry.If you’re looking to fine-tune your store, take a closer look at your equipment mix — you might not be getting customers in and out fast enough. One quick solution: adding a few more dryer pockets could alleviate gridlock. Also, assess your collections, and see which machines are turning. Why aren’t customers using certain equipment?If you want to attract more customers, go to the local churches and promote giving rides to people to get to your store. A basic “taxi service” could bump up profits.Two heads can be better than one. An idea exchange with other area operators should be considered.Have you taken a good look at your employees? Better training might be in order. If you have to increase your pay a bit, think about it. Is it worth losing a customer over an additional 25 cents or so an hour?Going “green” is a familiar term these days. In certain areas, people care a great deal about going green. You can raise industry awareness through public relations and mailings about how laundries can help conserve resources. For example, illustrate how commercial front loaders use substantially less water, gas and electricity than home units.Never ignore the little things. One Texas operator repays 50 cents to each customer for each wash load during the slowest times. This has proven to be successful, and has generated more business.A HOT TOPICThere are two major trends evolving in hot-water equipment for the self-service laundry industry, according to Hamilton Engineering. Is it important for your laundry to have hot water all the time, regardless of the number of customers using your washers? If your answer is no, then ask yourself this: If you only have hot water when the store is slow or empty, why have it at all?If you are not providing hot water and the best wash quality when the store is busy, why do you care about hot water when the store is not busy?When selecting a hot-water system, the two new trends are to replace your existing system with one that requires no storage (instantaneous), or with one that uses storage but operates at near 100% efficiency (condensing).THE PRICE IS RIGHT?Have you boosted washer or dryer prices lately? Here is what your fellow operators are charging, according to our annual State of the Industry survey.The two most popular dryer prices are 25 cents/six minutes and 25 cents/eight minutes. Thirty-six percent of respondents charge $1.50 per wash for top loaders. For front loaders, the most popular prices are: $2 (20-pounders); $3.25 (30-pounders); and $4.50 (40-pounders).ASK AND YOU MAY RECEIVESometimes, your best source of information is right under your nose. Why don’t more owners talk to their customers, and/or recognize the shortcomings of their business? Jim Kell, Laundry Equipment Services, suggests asking your customers these questions:

  • If I invested some money in improving the laundry, what would you like to see done?
  • Would you be willing to pay an additional 25 or 50 cents for the improvements?
  • If we installed 45-pound stack or 75-pound dryers, would you launder your bedspreads or comforters more often?
  • Would you be willing to try wash, dry and fold service if offered?
  • If we offered longer hours, would this be of interest to you?

Click here for Part 2 of this story! 

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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