GLENDALE, Ariz. — So far, the laundromat business has been good for you. So good, in fact, that your mat can’t accommodate all the customers during busy times.
While it is indeed a thrill that more and more people are choosing your mat, it’s wise to not let this go on for too long. A busy mat can invite competition. Its machines wear out faster, have more “Out of Order” signs, and require more maintenance. More fights break out among customers when it’s too busy. These are all signs that you may need to expand … if you can.
What are some options? In Part 1, we looked at lateral expansions. Part 2 started to examine other expansion options. Let’s conclude:
OTHER EXPANSION OPTIONS (CONTINUED)
Here’s an option that I never had the courage to try: opening another mat of your own right across the street from your existing one.
I know of a mat owner who did this to keep out competition. It worked for a few years until the neighborhood got so hot with people coming in, the owner ended up getting a new competitor anyhow! So now there are three mats at one intersection. I don’t know how any of them make money.
A word of caution: If you close your mat to permanently open another one, either nearby, or in the same shopping center, don’t leave the landlord flat. Leave on good terms so you don’t trigger them to reopen your old space as a new laundromat.
And don’t leave the mat’s infrastructure in place. If you do, you’ll be giving a big discount on construction for another mat to come in. If your lease allows, spend the extra money to have all the mat’s infrastructure pulled out. Make the space into a vanilla box. This may already be required in your lease, but even if it’s not, this is a good thing to do for your old landlord and to protect yourself.
EXPANDING THROUGH PICKUP AND DELIVERY
How about expanding your business without expanding your space? This is another option. If your drop-off business is great, why not share the greatness with people from a wider net? You aren’t adding more locations or a bigger store, so this doesn’t cost as much as new construction. You are adding a new cash flow. Some busy professional customers will pay more for the convenience of having someone come to their door.
You can add a lot more income, but know that this is a more labor-intensive model. Unlike pizza delivery, laundromats have to make two trips to a customer’s home. You’ll need at least one vehicle and driver, plus someone who can oversee the operation from pickup, processing, and delivery.
A good laundromat delivery app can help a lot with this. Google to find one, or ask your distributor.
Be advised that if your mat is already busy, adding pickup and delivery can cause self-serve customers to get angry if your crew consistently competes for the same machines.
You can also list commercial work, such as hair stylists, restaurants, etc., in this category. There are special washers that can be programmed specifically for getting restaurant linens clean and white; talk to your distributor. You’ll need a good on-premises washer that can make pH changes, provide a “break” in the cycle, add steam, etc. One trick is to add significant starch to the tablecloths when finished. The starch will absorb many future stains instead of them soaking into the fabric. Then the washer removes the starch along with the stain.
On a final note, I recall one day as customers came in after I expanded one of my mats, an Israeli woman smiled and said, “Ahh, America! One of the few places in the world where [expansion] happens on a regular basis.”
If you’re in a position to expand your laundry operations, weigh your options and always keep your customers top of mind.
Missed early parts of this article? You can read them here: Part 1 - Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].