CHICAGO — Offering customers the ability to do bigger loads using large-capacity equipment can help decrease turnover and reduce the number of loads each has to do. While washers and dryers in the 20- to 40-pound range still make up a significant share of equipment in Laundromats today, it’s not unusual to see a few machines twice that size or larger in the same equipment mix.
Indeed, when time is at a premium, there’s something very attractive about having the ability to do one’s entire laundry in one big machine instead of a bunch of smaller ones.
1 CLEAN LAUNDRY
Ed Ellis, with wife Rachael, co-owns 1 Clean Laundry in St. Cloud, Fla., a “bedroom community to Orlando” with a population of around 48,000. Their store opened in June 2015.
When the couple purchased an existing store that had gone out of business in a local shopping center, they had it remodeled floor to ceiling and installed Speed Queen equipment. The mix includes washers from 20 to 80 pounds and dryer pockets from 30 to 75 pounds.
“I think the biggest machine he had in there was a 40-pounder,” Ellis recalls. “We put in one 80-pounder, which was my mistake. I should have put in two 80-pounders.”
The 80-pounder “is probably the most popular machine in the store. We’re entirely networked, a card or coin store, so I can easily run the numbers.”
After a few mouse clicks into his ESD payment system, Ellis proclaims that in September, the 80-pounder had 79 washes by coin and 69 by credit card. “It’s doing five turns a day.”
1 Clean Laundry actively promotes having the largest vended laundry equipment in its community.
“They can do so much at one time, at one go, that it actually saves them money,” Ellis says of the customers who use the larger machines. “The 80-pounder vends at $9. If they used double loaders, they’d have to use four of them at $2.50 each, so they save a dollar.”
And it’s not unusual for a customer to put three or four comforters in the 80-pounder. They couldn’t do that many in smaller machines, he says, “and they definitely couldn’t do them in their home machines.”
“I know when they’ve tried to wash them at home, especially if it’s down-filled, because they’ll come into the store with this leaking bag,” Ellis says, chuckling, “with a heavy comforter in it that just wrecked their home machine.”
Dave Avenarius owns three stores in the Glenville and Ballston Spa communities in New York state. His two Cunningham’s Laundromats utilize large-capacity equipment, the vast majority of it being Dexter brand.
“I see a ton of people coming in to get all of their stuff done on a Saturday,” he says. “We’ve got two eight-load machines, and you’ve got 16 loads of laundry, while on the home side, you’re 40 to 50 pounds, an hour to wash and another hour to dry for a strong single (load) or even a double, whatever you can get done at home. It eats up a whole Saturday.
“They’ll take an 80 (pounder) and put the whole king sheets, comforter, pillows, the whole nine yards in there.”
When the decision was made to build a new store from scratch in Glenville, population 29,480, in 2010, there were things that Avenarius didn’t like about another store that he wanted to change in the new one. One aspect was the equipment mix, opting to go with larger-capacity models and offer fewer 30-pounders.
“Looking back, I would have cut back on the 30s on washers and added more 40s, because those are the ones that get used,” he says. “I would have put three more stacks of 50s in instead of 30-pound pockets.”
Armed with that knowledge, when it came time to rehab another store, he went big.
“I could see that was the way to go. When we revamped (the) Ballston Spa (store in 2012), we put in 80-pound dryers, 50-pound stacks, two 80-pound washers and two 60-pound washers” plus replaced some older equipment with eight 40-pounders.
“It’s quite a larger mix in Ballston than we’re used to. People just kept gravitating to that bigger machine.”
Cunningham’s vends its 80-pound washers at $8.75 in Ballston Spa and $9 in Glenville.
“Based on a $2 top-load washer, that’s like $1.09 a load. You know, it’s like half-price. I get the customers that walk in and first thing they see are the big machines and they say, ‘Omigod, you’re an overpriced Laundromat.’ Since we’re unattended, it’s difficult, but other customers let people know, and slowly they do know.
“That’s 80 pounds of dry product. This is an on-premises style of machine, introduced to the vended laundry only maybe five years ago. We were the first in Saratoga County with those 80-pounders. We put signage up just to exploit that.
“People who understand pack those freakin’ things and get the job done.”
Check back Monday for the conclusion!