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 the following key aspect 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. How about planning and/or preparing for growth?
Mike Hand, vice president, North America Commercial Sales, Alliance Laundry Systems: Build in systems first. Growing a business requires the ability to scale, and owners can’t be in multiple places at once. Thus, planning for growth necessitates leveraging management systems/apps to stay up to date on all operations and ease scaling to multiple locations.
David Hoffman, sales manager, Gold Coin Laundry Equipment: Many people mistakenly wait until they have little to no time left on their lease before having a conversation with their landlord regarding extending it. If you are considering making improvements in the laundry, that is a good time to contact the landlord and start having the conversation. Let them know you’re looking to improve on the business, change out equipment, or possibly expand the store. Don’t wait until the lease is almost up to start looking for an extension.
Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales, Girbau North America: Get with your distributor early on for assistance with laundry and growth planning. Always consider new equipment technology, customer flow, aisle clearances, and bulkhead utility and maintenance access. Machines and customer loads are getting larger, so your aisles should, too.
King Lee, senior regional sales manager, Dexter Laundry: When designing a new store, one must plan to accommodate your customers on the busiest days. I like when I see a layout that already prepares for future growth, i.e., a bulkhead of washers on one side and the other side is for folding that can add more washers with ease, as all of the plumbing and electrical is already in place, and there is a blank wall where more dryers can be inserted at a later date. I like store owners who control their market before moving onto the next market.
Matt Miller, president, Coin-O-Matic: Have a separate checking account for your business and keep your little fingers off the profits. Be honest with yourself on your plans and timelines. Seek somebody you can trust to help you set up a plan to meet those goals. Laundry equipment distributors can be very good at this. Choose wisely.
Don Tomasian Jr., vice president, DT Equipment Co.: As for a general plan:
- Do your homework and thoroughly research commercial laundry equipment brands.
- Work with a distributor who has decades of qualified experience building mega-laundromats, and ask them to show you stores they’ve built, and talk with their customers. Check their reputation.
- Meet with a distributor who can assist you with assessing the competition, market conditions, demographics, present store condition and financials, and obtain their expert advice on recommendations, along with obtaining estimated return-on-investment reports.
Al Adcock, vice president of sales and marketing, B&C Technologies: Once you’ve found your recipe for success, you can now replicate it in other locations or, if space is available in your current location, expand when it becomes necessary. Adding larger machines has proven to be a winner in today’s marketplace, so perhaps that is what growing can mean to your store. Nonetheless, creating a warm and welcoming space will go far in boosting the business.
Joe Fleming, national sales manager, Yamamoto North America: If you’re not planning and moving toward the business of tomorrow, you are losing parts of your business today. Technology and culture move faster than our checking account could ever keep up, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be actively trying. I’m not suggesting you buy new equipment every year, or buy your competitors down the street just because you’ve got the extra capital. But recognize that, in this competition that is business ownership, someone is always trying to outperform you. What are you doing to keep up?
Gary Gauthier, national sales manager, vended laundries, Pellerin Milnor Corp.: I’ve always encouraged store owners to consider larger machines for higher vend prices if additional floorspace isn’t an option. It’s often a fast way to provide a store to bring in additional volume.
Q: How can a manufacturer and/or their distributors best help self-service laundry owners succeed?
Hoffman: Manufacturers have been helping laundry owners succeed by offering (more) larger-capacity equipment than in the past. These newer, larger machines are more profitable as well, helping to reduce operating expenses with more energy efficiency. Also, many newer machines have different ways of “up-selling” the end-user.
Distributors can help laundry owners by making sure they have the latest and most energy-efficient equipment, as well as educating the store owner to make sure they are offering all the options that they can. A distributor can also help to make sure the owner is charging the best vend prices that the store and the neighborhood can demand.
Jorgensen: GNA distributors work closely with laundry owners on every aspect of laundry development/improvement. They assist with equipment selection, laundry design, marketing, financing and service after the sale. They also perform competitive analyses, demographic studies and create pro formas to help secure financing on behalf of customers.
Lee: Distributors and manufacturers benefit when all store owners succeed, not just the ones they sold equipment to. A good salesperson is not afraid to tell the customer no if they feel a location is not right. The best companies look to become partners with laundromat owners … for the long haul.
Miller: Coin-O-Matic partners with vendors that concentrate on quality and innovation, and we focus on our providing quality services that help laundromat owners build wealth.
Tomasian: Dexter Laundry provides their customers with a lifetime of support on all their products. At distribution level, DT Equipment Co. offers industry events and service schools to help ensure our customers’ success. Additionally, we support store owners with a full range of services such as equipment and parts sales, installation and financing. Another way that we support our customers is to engage with them on feasibility studies and location viability to help them realize their highest success rate.
Adcock: Manufacturers, distributors and store owners must work together for mutual success. Ultimately, the individual store owners will require support.
With the increasing technology and systems in place in a vended laundry, other companies (internet, payment/merchant services, payment technologies provided by third parties) are involved as well, creating the possibility of finger-pointing when problems occur. The best way to avoid problems when multiple vendors are involved is through documentation and communication. Make sure that communications are in writing, and if a phone call or meeting occurs, summarize and distribute notes so that all parties are on the same page.
Fleming: We’re blessed to see this from a wide range of angles and challenge the success of different ideas in new markets. Owners that often trust manufacturer/distributor recommendations get to take advantage of the experience that comes from 75-plus-year-old companies having countless other laundries operating around the globe. By trusting and testing new concepts, we jointly learn the best ways to innovate and support our industry. In doing so, the customer experience often improves and the profitability of stores follows.
Gauthier: I’m a big believer in service seminars and equipment shows. Anytime we can hold hands with our local dealers to share value with our customers is valuable beyond words.
Hand: At their best, distributors and manufacturers are an owner’s trusted resources. We are all in this together. So, our goal is always our customers’ success. We do that through being there for customers well after the sale to help with questions, marketing advice, training, whatever.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].