LAS VEGAS — Vended laundry owners and dry cleaners are using each other’s expertise to increase their market share, and this summer’s Clean Show served as the forum for representatives of each to explain what it takes to make such a partnership work.
The joint Coin Laundry Association/Drycleaning & Laundry Institute education session featured Stephen Moore, owner of PressBox Cleaners in Atlanta, and Chris Balestracci, president of Super Wash Laundry, East Haven, Conn. Moderating was Jeff Gardner, who calls himself “The Laundry Doctor” and is a member of both associations.
Moore, previously a civil engineer by trade, started in the industry five years ago as a drycleaning route operator but now owns and operates a full-service plant. He farms out wash-dry-fold business to a subcontractor.
Balestracci has been a laundry owner since 1988 and currently owns two stores. Gardner says Balestracci has always worked with dry cleaners in providing those services through his laundries.
Moore and Balestracci say that point-of-sale (POS) systems are invaluable when it comes to coordinating laundry or drycleaning services between separate facilities.
Balestracci remembers a time when all receipts were handwritten, nobody could read them, and pricing was often wrong.
“If you pick up anything this week, it’s that technology is here to stay in our business,” he says. “We must embrace technology, because it will help us make more money and be more profitable.”
If you’re going to team with a dry cleaner to offer that service via your Laundromat, invest in a POS system that will enable your staff to track orders for both businesses, he says.
“If you’re writing on receipts, or on ledgers, it’s not going to work well,” Balestracci warns. “You’re going to have problems with your customers. You’re going to have problems with the dry cleaner. You’re not going to have accountability. If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to make that commitment.
“Having a POS system means that you are professional. (Customers) can get a printed receipt, not a handwritten one. You can accept credit cards or Apple Pay or any number of things.”
Balestracci believes that a Laundromat’s pricing for dry cleaning is unique and dependent on U.S. location and the scope of services.
“I’ve had situations where it’s been 50/50. Right now, we’re about 70/30. I’m making the 30, and some might say that’s low. We see it as a convenience to our customers. Yes, it’s a profit center. As I was getting prepared for this talk … I went over my prices and I ran up my drycleaning prices this week because I realized I wasn’t making enough.”
Balestracci charges $2.75 per shirt that his dry cleaner processes for roughly $1.25. On average, he charges customers $6.95 to dry-clean a pair of pants, jacket or blouse, of which his drycleaning partner gets $5.75.
The more the dry cleaner does in processing and assembling orders for your Laundromat, the more money they’re going to make, he says.
“I’m OK with the 30% because I know there’s going to be very few problems, there’s going to be good accountability, and my customers are getting a very high-quality product.”
Moore believes in a per-piece pricing model for dry cleaning.
“We take care of two independent route operators. They contract to work with us. We charge them both the same price, one of them retails a lot higher, and that’s OK because he does 100% next-day delivery for his customers. Why should I make more because he’s doing more effort, while the other route operator has a longer turnaround time?
“We know how much it costs us to do the work and how much money we want to make off that work. We charge them a price, and anything they want to charge above that, great.”
Pricing should be an ongoing topic of conversation between laundry/drycleaning partners, Moore says.
“Experienced cleaners know we’re increasing your prices every six months, if not more frequently, just to keep up,” he says. “In any relationship you have, you have to be prepared for increased costs.”
Balestracci says he has no formal contract with his drycleaning partner. “It’s a gentleman’s agreement. I pay within a week the drycleaning bill they give me once a month. It’s been a great relationship in that way.”
“I strongly believe in having everything written down,” Moore says. “We may have a conversation, we may be on the same page, or we may have heard two completely different things.”
As the conversation drew to a close, it circled back to the need for both parties to first develop a relationship and then work together to strengthen it for everyone’s benefit.
“The failures I’ve had in the past with different wholesalers was specifically because of that,” says Moore. “We did not intentionally, systematically, carve out time to build the relationship, to spend time outside of work on that.
“That’s become a part of what we do now, with everyone we work with. We want to see them outside of work, because it’s so valuable. It makes the issues, when they do come up, that much easier (to deal with) because you have the relationship, you have common ground.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.