CHICAGO — Larger multi-load washers and dryers are all the rage these days but many self-service laundry customers still prefer using small models. How are today’s stores accommodating both?
American Coin-Op interviewed representatives from several manufacturer brands to get their thoughts on the large-capacity equipment trend, calculating an appropriate capacity mix, and the future of smaller machines.
Part 1 addressed how greater interest in large-capacity machines has influenced vended equipment mix, and the changing share of large-capacity equipment in store development today. Part 2 touched on the influence of capacity choices on vend pricing and the grouping of equipment in laundromat design. Let's conclude:
Q: Do you think there will always be a need for vended washers and dryers with capacities of 30 pounds or less? Why is that?
Jennifer Butzlaff, Speed Queen business optimization director, Alliance Laundry Systems Distribution: Small-capacity machines will always be a part of laundromats, but I think you’ll see the pendulum swing. Where before you saw a couple 60s or 80s, we will continue to transition to where those capacities are the majority and there are only a couple top-loads or 30s.
Norbert Cardenas, Huebsch regional sales representative, Alliance Laundry Systems Distribution – South: Overall, smaller 20-pound-capacity washers will remain part of a laundromat footprint. However, quantities will certainly shrink as laundromat real estate becomes more competitive and expensive. I think over time, the 30-pound washer may be a thing of the past as demand shrinks and supply cost for manufacturers increases. Realistically, there is little difference in capacity between the 20 and 30, at least visually, to a customer. So, why install a 30-pound machine when you can install a 40-pounder and increase capacity for your customers and revenue in practically the same space?
Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales, Girbau North America: Store owners prefer customers that use predominately large loads. But there is often a need for a large-load customer to do a small load of delicates or whites. Store owners want parking spots to be filled with large-load customers, if possible, and turned over quickly during peak volume periods of the week. Remember, the larger machines help differentiate the laundries from home and apartment laundries.
King Lee, senior sales manager, Dexter Laundry: Yes, while there will always be a niche for smaller washers, the demand will fade much like that of the top-load washers. If certain people place a perceived value based solely on price, then the smaller units with a smaller vend price will attract a certain clientele. We’ve all seen this scene before: customers overfilling a small washer or dryer to “maximize” their spend, while others will under-fill a larger machine because the larger-capacity machine does a perceived better wash.
Al Adcock, vice president of sales & marketing, B&C Technologies: Absolutely. Operating front-load washers with less than a full load wastes time, water, electricity, detergent, and is significantly harder on the washer itself over time. It is best to fully load smaller washers (and less expensive as well).
Q: Any other comments about laundromats accommodating both small- and large-capacity equipment that you’d like to add?
Cardenas: Ultimately, two things dictate equipment mix of a laundromat: demographics, and services the laundromat owner wishes to provide to his or her customers and community. Regardless of demographics, if you’re doing linens or towels for businesses, local Airbnbs or motels, that will determine the size and quantity of your machines.
Jorgensen: Rent, real estate, utilities and labor costs continue to rise. Maximize your store’s capacity, cashflow and efficiency with large-capacity equipment. Never install just one of any large-capacity machine.
Lee: The best stores not only make accommodations for what the customer wants, but for what they need, whether they know it or not. For example, a good store owner will try to capture and retain his customer base by offering something his competition does not, whether it is having more larger-capacity machines or a better environment to do their laundry.
Adcock: Larger-capacity vended washers have added flexibility and additional business to a vended laundry operation, creating a resource of extra wash capacity. With capacities up to 100-plus pounds in vended equipment, laundromats can increase traffic and attract commercial customers that they normally wouldn’t, leading to an increase in business.
It wouldn’t surprise me to eventually find a store with many larger machines catering to small cleaning businesses, maid services and the like since capital equipment costs are beyond the means of many. A store with larger-capacity machines can be a resource to those starting such a business and a stepping stone to growth for those smaller start-up companies.
Butzlaff: There’s no doubt that the trend is (toward) large capacity. However, owners should always be matching the equipment mix to their demographics.
Miss an earlier part of this article? You can read it here: Part 1 — Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].