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Improving the Industry Roundtable: Equipment and Store Condition

Dedication to maintenance, cleanliness can pay great dividends

CHICAGO — Gathered at the roundtable of self-service laundry industry expertise, a group of seasoned professionals engages in a virtual conversation that delves into the heart of current industry trends and future forecasts.

In this exclusive assembly of minds, American Coin-Op brings you a front-row seat to insights, analyses and predictions that may shape the trajectory of your business realms; responses were edited for length and for magazine style.

From cutting-edge technologies to capitalizing on shifts in consumer behavior, thought leaders from some of our industry’s equipment manufacturers and distributors offer a kaleidoscope of ideas and concepts, providing you with a compass to navigate the uncharted waters of tomorrow’s marketplace.

Q: For each of the following key aspects of a self-service laundry operation, a) kindly name at least one way that any store owner can seek improvement, and b) offer a general plan or course of action for them to achieve it. First up is equipment.

Joe Fleming, national sales manager, Yamamoto North America: Think of it like our professional athletes. For conversation’s sake, how many sports records have been broken in the last 5-10 years? It would be naïve to think it doesn’t have to do with equipment advances. Golf balls fly farther, cars drive faster, bats hit baseballs hard (so much so they must be regulated). To think better equipment doesn’t correlate to a better business is just silly.

Gary Gauthier, national sales manager, vended laundries, Pellerin Milnor Corp.: Just like your vehicle, preventive maintenance is critical to a well-functioning store. My best store owners know their machines well and — if they haven’t learned how to work on the units themselves via dealer seminars — they have good, reliable service a quick phone call away.

Mike Hand, vice president, North America Commercial Sales, Alliance Laundry Systems: User-friendly controls. You need to only look at the device in your hand for how to achieve this. Touch screens are what your customers are interacting with throughout the day. Offering that same experience on your washers and dryers makes sense.

David Hoffman, sales manager, Gold Coin Laundry Equipment: Install larger-capacity washers and dryers and offer multiple payment options. Removing some of your smaller-capacity washers and dryers and replacing them with larger-capacity machines will help to increase customers and profits. Also, try moving away from coin-based equipment and offering your customers different payment options such as card and mobile payments.

Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales, Girbau North America: Analyze and document true costs to run a single cycle of each capacity of machines and ensure your vend prices are in line. Analyze which machines get the most and least volume. Consider price adjustments, improved marketing or replacement of less productive and profitable machines to address customer preference and profit contribution.

King Lee, senior regional sales manager, Dexter Laundry: People want bigger, more efficient machines. Large-capacity washers (60 pounds and larger) will make the store owner more money over top loaders and 20-pound washers. With data now available through card systems and network-capable machines, it clearly shows that the ROI on larger-capacity washers far exceeds those of smaller machines.

Matt Miller, president, Coin-O-Matic: Equipment older than five years costs you twice the amount to run (as far as utility consumption) than equipment that is available today from some manufacturers. Combine this with revenue opportunities that come with a fresh look at your equipment mix and you are talking about a serious increase in revenue. Yes, a proper equipment retool is a “win big” scenario for long-term profits.

Don Tomasian Jr., vice president, DT Equipment Co.: A store owner can achieve improvement by capitalizing on the cost-saving advantages of new equipment. One key aspect we emphasize is assisting customers in maximizing sales per square foot through the right equipment mix tailored to their location. This includes maintaining proper dryer-to-wash ratios; integrating high-capacity, double-stacked reversing dryers; and incorporating high-capacity washers, in order to optimize the maximum income potential of the laundromat and to reduce costs.

Al Adcock, vice president of sales and marketing, B&C Technologies: Ensure equipment is well-maintained and spotlessly clean. No one will be impressed by a filthy laundry with broken-down equipment.

Q: Now, how can a store owner seek improvement where store condition is concerned?

Gauthier: Cleanliness and lighting are a one-two punch that can make any laundry a champ or be knocked down. Cleanliness is based on habits. Regular walk-throughs of the laundry will always result in something that needs to be cleaned or picked up. Lighting — particularly LED systems — can be a capital investment with a demonstrated payback.

Hand: Keep it clean. Obviously, having an attended store makes it easier to do this. Setting a regular cleaning schedule for attendants to follow helps ensure your laundromat makes a good first impression every time.

Hoffman: Keep your laundry updated and always make sure it looks fresh, clean and inviting. It is always a good idea to stand at the entrance of your store and really take a good look at what your customer sees when they enter. Are the lights all on and working? Are there ceiling tiles missing or broken? Does your signage look outdated? Improvements in some of these areas will make your store stand out over the competition.

Jorgensen: Keep it clean, safe and operable. This sounds obvious yet thousands of stores don’t do it. Record customer movement during peak business and eliminate bottlenecks caused by obstructions. 

Lee: Customers will not drive by your store because it is a quarter or two higher in price, but they will drive by if it is dirty and unsafe. You have to remember who your core customer is: people looking to do a mundane chore in a place that feels welcoming. 

Miller: In simple terms, why would one go to a horrible and dirty place to get your clothes clean? Only if it’s their only option, and there are far too many stores out there that fit this bill. Yes, a laundromat must be clean, well-lit, safe, and inviting … period. Start with clean windows, fresh paint, LED lighting, updated flooring, and a neat parking lot. We’re not talking about a major spend here.

Tomasian: The condition of the laundry is the very first thing that your customers will see when they walk in your doors. In addition to the proper equipment mix, aesthetically speaking, we always emphasize to owners to remodel the store with a modern, clean, and inviting look; maintain clean and sanitary restrooms; keep the equipment maintained and operational; and stock up on commonly used parts for quick repairs.

Adcock: Lighting improvements, paint and flooring are relatively inexpensive ways to greatly improve the look of the interior of the store. Cleaning the windows and making sure signage is in good repair will help to attract customers. Landscaping plus a clean and well-lit parking lot will also help your business stand out.

Fleming: It doesn’t matter if it’s a laundromat, hotel, gym or grocery store—the condition of the facility embodies the heart of the customer experience. The time they spend breaking a bill, depositing quarters/credit cards, and touching buttons on a machine is but a small fraction of the time that they’ll sit to wait while the load processes. You could have the best location in town, but if the store is not well-kept, you could ruin it.

Coming Tuesday: Seeking and planning for improvement where marketing and promotions, and customer service and relations, are concerned

Improving the Industry Roundtable: Equipment and Store Condition

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