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.
Q: With vended laundry equipment, what’s considered to be the dividing line between “small capacity” and “large capacity”? What poundage?
Al Adcock, vice president of sales & marketing, B&C Technologies: Small capacity is generally considered to be 35 pounds and below.
Jennifer Butzlaff, Speed Queen business optimization director, Alliance Laundry Systems Distribution: Forty pounds and up are what I’d classify as large, multi-load capacity.
Norbert Cardenas, Huebsch regional sales representative, Alliance Laundry Systems Distribution – South: With regard to washers, top loaders through 30-pound machines are considered (to be) small-capacity. Forty pounds and greater are considered large-capacity. On the dry side, homestyle stack or single-pocket dryers under 50 pounds are small-capacity and stack commercial dryers or single stacks over 50 pounds (are what) I consider to be large-capacity dryers.
Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales, Girbau North America: At 40 pounds of capacity and above.
King Lee, senior sales manager, Dexter Laundry: As today’s laundromats evolve, anything over 40 pounds is considered large equipment, so that would be the 60-, 80-, 90-, 100- and 120-pound-capacity washers.
Q: Self-service laundries are trending toward offering larger-capacity equipment, some so large that a customer can conceivably wash all of their laundry in one machine. How has this greater interest in larger capacities influenced vended equipment mix overall?
Butzlaff: We are definitely seeing owners going bigger, with a heavy focus on 80- and 100-pound washer-extractors.
Cardenas: We are seeing the trend toward larger machines, and we are looking to match that need with equipment sizes that make customers happy and owners successful.
Jorgensen: Today, the norm is to have a mix of machines that are 40 pounds and above. New stores and existing-store-refit designs include large-capacity machines from 60, 70, 80 to 130 pounds of capacity.
Lee: It is not uncommon to see laundromats offer 30-pound washers as the smallest, with the 60- to 80-pound washers as the most used. We have even seen new retools go 40s, 60s, 80s and 120s with only four washers as small as 20 pounds capacity in the new configuration, replacing a store full of top loaders and 20-pounders.
Adcock: Larger-capacity machines attract those interested in washing larger items. This can be large comforters, or even someone starting a laundry business that can’t yet afford to purchase their own equipment. All in all, larger capacities provide flexibility and accommodate customers that wouldn’t ordinarily consider a laundromat.
Q: Thinking of store development today, what share of the equipment mix—by capacities, not numbers of machines—might large-capacity machines commonly occupy vs. the small-capacity models? How might this differ from the past?
Cardenas: If you study any laundromat data in the last 10 years, you’ll find that 40-pound and 80-pound machines generate the lion’s share of the revenue relative to the number of machines. Store owners make more money for the real estate within the store and customers like the time savings and ease of placing everything in one washer and moving on. So, both are benefiting from this trend – it’s a win-win. Large-capacity extractors (40 pounds and greater) should make up 80% of the store mix.
Jorgensen: In the ’80s and ’90s, the ratio of small- to large-capacity machines was 70 to 30. That shifted to 40 to 60 and today is 20 to 80. This relates back to when more apartments started offering laundry amenities and domestic appliance sellers moved from top-load washers to larger-capacity front-load machines in the mid-’90s. This was the turning point when vended laundries began to flip the capacity percentage and draw on a broader demographic through full-service offerings like wash-dry-fold. They quickly realized the profit impact.
Lee: In new laundromats and recently retooled stores, you see most of the washers and dryers geared to the larger-capacity variety. Up until six to 10 years ago, one would see four to eight larger (60 and 80 pounds) washers in an average-size laundromat. Today, that number has probably doubled, if not more in some areas. The most popular size washer used to be the 30-pound front-load washer, the workhorse. You would be hard-pressed to find a store owner that says that size is his most-used today.
Adcock: I think the equipment mix is similar to the past but larger-capacity machines give a store owner something extra and can also attract attention to the store, since a larger machine in the front window can show potential customers that larger-capacity machines are available.
Butzlaff: Single-load and smaller capacities will always be part of the equipment mix. However, today’s most profitable laundromats are installing a higher percentage of large-capacity washer-extractors and matching tumblers. I’d say 60% of the mix is 40-pound capacity and above.
In Part 2 on Thursday: Vend price and capacity choice; and machine placement
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].