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Minding the Mix: Larger Equipment Trend Continues (Part 2)

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.APPEARANCE MATTERSObservation pays off, says Kevin Graf, Altimus Distributing, Billings, Mont. “See what machines are getting used the most. Look at the age of the machines. Do you have enough capacity?”Appearance also matters, he says. “If the machines aren’t clean, there’s the perception that they are not good. New machines will get used twice as much as old machines.”Even a slight change, such as going from 25-pound machines to 30-pound machines, can make a difference, he adds.While not having a set equipment-mix formula, Graf likes to mix some larger units with smaller units, even in the smaller stores.While the number of top loaders dwindles in his area, some store owners still have them because they are favored by older customers. “More stores in my area are also networking the washers, which is rare because this area is a bit behind the rest of the country. Large front loaders continue to be popular, and the 45- and 50-pound stacks are gaining in popularity. There are still some single-pocket dryers, but 90 percent of the stores feature stacks only.”Graf favors having one-third more drying capacity than washer capacity, if possible.“On a scale of 1-5, I rate equipment placement a 4 or 5. I want my big machines up front so people are impressed. We really push this to the owners.”The No. 1 equipment-mix mistake is the lack of drying capacity, he believes. “Some stores don’t realize this from the beginning; other times drying capacity lacked when larger front loaders were added. If you lack drying capacity, customers will stand in line and become upset.”MANY QUESTIONS TO ASKBefore making any change, examine the demographics, suggests Jim Colletti, Wascomat Distributors, Port Washington, N.Y.“Are there more large families in the area? What machines are used on the weekends? Everything is getting larger, except for the white garments. More people have larger beds, larger sheets and larger comforters, which require larger washers and dryers.”If you’re strictly looking at the revenue-generating aspect of a certain machine, keep in mind that some machines are used more than others because of their placement, he explains.Colletti favors, at a minimum, a 1-to-1 washer/dryer pocket ratio, but reminds operators that some of the loads from larger front loaders (55-pound and larger) require two pockets.“The 45-pound stacks are popular. In the New York market, the high cost of square footage makes stacks more desirable. In my area, there are no single-pocket dryers or top loaders.“Often, with newer owners, stores have too much washer capacity and not enough dryer capacity. When looking at some older stores, you may only see 30-pound stacks; what happens if someone uses a 55- or 75-pound washer?”With cost, space, and demographic considerations changing, it’s easy to make equipment-mix mistakes. “Consult with your distributor about equipment, and quiz him about why he recommends something. Calculate everything. Stores vary. In the old days, there was an equipment formula, but not today.”He suggests evaluating your equipment mix every five years, unless you note weekend-trend changes. “The attendant should also know which machines are used the most. Every five years or so, rotate the machines from front to back. Also, keep the big machines up front, if possible.”The look of a machine isn’t a big factor, he says. “The overall look of the store matters more than a machine having a few scratches. It’s more important to take care of the top of the machines, where the instructions are. Customers will notice this.”EVERY STORE IS UNIQUEYou know it’s time for an equipment change when the ‘Broken’ sign is constantly stuck on a machine, says Mike Worthy, Justin Laundry Systems, Little Rock, Ark.What to change is the owner’s decision, he believes, but he urges distributors to chat with owners about the competition, water savings, etc. “Basically, the owners would like some reassurance.”Even adding one machine can make a difference to the bottom line. “Improvement is improvement.”Demographics are at the core of all equipment decisions, he says. “Everything we do is on a store-by-store basis. Even if the demographics are similar, what people do in Minnesota and California are different from Arkansas. For example, demographics might vary by the local climate. In a colder climate, there are more clothes to wash. In an area that has year-round school, more clothing may need to be washed.”When deciding on an equipment mix, you need to look at the competition, store space, customer flow, and what you need to do to compete in a market, he advises.“What I see in my area are [operators] holding steady because of financial concerns and the customer-comfort factor. More and more people are hearing praise for front loaders, but they aren’t switching because they are looking at the bottom line.”Worthy has no set washer/dryer pocket ratio, since decisions are often based on the available space and what the owner really wants. “However, we love to give owners examples of stores we worked on that are similar to theirs. We also love to have owners chat with each other.”Equipment placement is essential. “The largest equipment, the greatest revenue-generating equipment, should be up front.”When Worthy walks into a Laundromat, he looks at the placement of the bulkheads; he likes to see the entire store from the outside, and dislikes clutter.Old equipment isn’t necessarily a problem. “You can keep old equipment looking good. People will still use it. However, old equipment can drop down in usage because of customer perception. People don’t want to put clothes in a bad-looking washer, be it 2 years old or 15 years old. Age of the machine won’t be an issue if it’s clean.”To read Part 1 of this story, click here. 

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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