ARMONK, N.Y. — When you have been in the laundry industry as long as I have (more than 30 years), you start to witness changes and trends within the industry. I recognize a significant trend and have witnessed its evolution within the vended laundry industry.
We are fortunate to be seeing one of these evolutionary changes as I write this letter. To set the evolutionary timeline, I have listed my top six picks for significant (or evolutionary) changes within the vended laundry industry.
Card Systems — The card system has had a long gestation period throughout its development. Although not quickly embraced, card systems had the long-lasting qualities that could not be dismissed. The advantage of no more coins and the ability to have penny-increment washer-and-dryer pricing proved too great a concept to die.
The card systems have evolved to become the standard of the “mega” Laundromat. The multistore operator could only handle 12 to 16 stores before processing quarters became a seven-day-a-week job by itself. The accountability of the card store forced the evolution from mom-and-pop-type cash operation to the corporate-owned, mega-store operator. Now owners have online monitoring, and all they need is a trusted body to collect the “paper.” New features and benefits continue to be introduced.
Large-Capacity Stack Dryers — Adding 45- and 50-pound stack dryers changed the industry landscape. With two different-sized stack dryers in the same store, operators can offer more drying capacity than washing capacity.
Huebsch started this technological jump by offering the 45-pound stack dryer. Now owners can eliminate the dryer bottleneck and whisk customers through the drudgery of doing their laundry. More drying capacity eliminated the customer confrontations that occurred when dry-only customers staked out dryers. There’s no excuse for any store to have inadequate drying capacity.
Energy-Efficient Washers — There is a change in the industry wherever the most energy-efficient washers are installed. Energy costs and water/sewer rates keep rising, and bright owners are installing microprocessor-controlled washers and high-speed-extract washers to deal with this challenge.
The addition of the microprocessor gives the owner the control and flexibility to minimize the amount of water used per cycle. Five-water-change front loaders are no longer acceptable. The new standard is one wash and two rinses equating to a savings of up to 50% of water and sewer costs. In some cases, this savings can cover a huge portion of the new-equipment loan costs. In effect, the utility savings can discount the cost of the machines by up to 50%!
In addition, the high-speed-extract washers (140 G-force and higher) will remove up to 15% of water from the clothes. With 15% less water, the dryers will consume 15% less gas. Smart owners recognize that they can either pay the utility companies or pay themselves with the utility cost savings. Utility costs will only increase over time. Invest in the most energy-efficient equipment and reduce your operational costs.
The Laundromat industry will continue to change and evolve as new ideas and technology are embraced and adopted. Change and evolution are constants. The industry’s significant and long-lasting changes have maximized the owner’s profits and helped minimize labor expenses. The future looks good for the nimble and visionary owners who will embrace change.