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Minding the Mix: Larger Equipment Trend Continues (Part 1)

Paul Partyka |

How much thought have you put into your equipment mix? What type of equipment will your new laundry feature? Is it time to alter the equipment mix at your store? Determining the proper equipment mix may be more of a challenge than you think, according to distributors.Since there is no accepted “standard” equipment mix, a variety of factors influence today’s equipment decisions. Several distributors weighed in on equipment-mix issue.SOFT-MOUNT EQUIPMENT OFFERS VERSATILITYWhen analyzing your current equipment mix, don’t ignore appearance, says Jeff Dunn, Machinex, Cincinnati. “How the machines look really matters,” says Dunn. “Some owners have renovated their stores, yet didn’t change any equipment. Older equipment will stand out more.”Demographics matter when making any equipment decision, Dunn believes. He also believes that there is a “wow” factor attached to the largest equipment. “If you have an older group of customers, you want machines that they are comfortable with, however, one larger front loader will generate a buzz and appeal to younger customers. A couple of big front loaders (50-pound units) are like a billboard promoting your business.”If your budget is tight, he suggests replacing top loaders with 20-pound, soft-mount machines. “If you have the money, think about 30-pound machines. However, you can get a whole bank of [20-pound, soft-mount machines] for a lot less money than some of the larger machines, and still save on energy. And whenever you add new equipment, use signage and promote it!”Don’t ignore equipment placement, he advises. “Placement is a big deal. Most equipment controls have audit functions; this can tell you a lot of things, such as that machines on the end get used more. That’s why I’m on a soft-mount-machine kick. Hard-mount machines are difficult to move. Soft-mount machines are ‘recyclable;’ you can move them to vary their use and increase their life.”The ideal washer-dryer ratio is 1-to-1.1, or, at the very least, 1-to-1, he believes. “At a certain point, you need a bigger dryer to match bigger washers. Some customers have the misconception that bigger dryers will dry faster. Also, remember that it’s not the number of dryers, but the dryer poundage that is key.”The most common mistake is buying equipment to fit the size of the store, and not focusing on the area demographics, he says. “Hone in on your maximum market; if you don’t have enough equipment, people will leave during busy times. You can also have too much equipment. Start with the demographics, look at your place in the market, and then purchase the equipment.”LARGER MACHINES ATTRACT RENTERS“It might be time to examine your equipment mix if your customer base is declining and there is no new competitor,” says Jim Hohnstein, Martin-Ray Laundry Systems, Denver. “You may also need to change things if your competition is doing something different, or has some new features, such as larger equipment doors. Larger doors can command higher prices.”There are many ways to factor in the demographics. “For example, if you are dealing with a large concentration of renters in the area (30-70 percent), they are most likely using small machines, so encourage them to use your store by putting in larger machines. There is no set equipment formula; all the stores are in unique neighborhoods. The equipment decisions are site-specific.”Hohnstein believes the No. 1 equipment trend is the use of larger stack dryers. “We see owners focusing on the 45- and 50-pound stacks right out of the gate. They are fast and energy-efficient, have larger doors, and customers will wait in line to use them.“I tell people to have one dryer pocket available (regardless of capacity) for every washer pocket.”Equipment placement is key. “Your layout will help determine the placement, but I don’t like to block the entrance. If the front of the store is blocked, customers will be scared away, if only short-term. I like a lot of horsepower in the back; it opens up the front during busy times.”He warns owners to avoid making two mistakes. “First, you don’t want to lack drying capacity. You also need the proper infrastructure for this. Second, crunch numbers with someone else, be it a friend or distributor. If you just focus on how much equipment costs, you will end up with too many smaller front loaders.”The story concludes Friday. 

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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