CHICAGO — In concert with Beverly Kay Blank’s take on “Arming Yourself to Evaluate the Competition,” American Coin-Op asked a handful of laundromat owners what they think of keeping an eye on competitors, how they go about it, and what they try to learn. Let’s hear what two more had to say:
JOHN COOPER, WAVEMAX LAUNDRY, FLORIDA
WaveMAX Laundry franchisee John Cooper’s first store has been open in Hialeah, Florida, since April and he’s keenly aware of the need to size up the competition: “It’s the best way to be able to find your differentiation in the marketplace.”
He recalls doing an initial search of every laundry he could find in his county … and getting tossed out of a few.
“Took pictures of them, did write-ups on them, and then when I honed in on the neighborhood, we went back out and physically went to every laundry.
“Washed clothes at the laundry, tested them out. Between myself and some early-hire employees, went through detailed questionnaires on how they’re organized, what they have, what’s good, bad and ugly about them.”
WaveMAX provided “a good bit of (geography-based) data and other things so that we could analyze the market suitability of the location before we got into signing anything or doing anything,” Cooper adds. He also took advantage of location studies purchased from the Coin Laundry Association.
The on-site visits helped position his laundry in the right way but also served as a training tool of sorts.
“I was hiring people who didn’t have a background in the laundry business, same as me,” says Cooper, who works full-time as a client partner for a software engineering firm. “So, it’s very instructive to go out and see what your competition is doing, and to see what’s different. Then it helps prep you for how you sell to clients and interact with clients when they come in. It was pretty effective from that standpoint.”
He intends to maintain a steady watch on any challengers.
“I think it has to be done regularly,” Cooper says of the evaluations. “I am choosing to budget it into my manpower planning to be sure I have budget set aside, an hour set aside, for people to go do it.”
TODD OFSINK, TODD LAYNE CLEANERS & LAUNDROMAT, NEW YORK
Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat got its start in New York City in 2006, founded by management consultant Todd Ofsink. Today, besides self-service, his laundry offers wash/dry/fold pickup and delivery throughout Manhattan, and its service radius is being extended thanks to a new partnership with DoorDash.
“I’m always interested in learning what our competition is up to,” Ofsink says of his laundry’s service area. “Online, it’s very easy. You can look at other laundries’ websites, platforms, and check their pricing.”
Whether traveling by car or foot, he never passes up an opportunity to personally visit a laundromat along his route.
“I just have something innate in me. I just want to see what kind of machines they have and what their pricing is like. Do they offer wash and fold? What kind of marketing are they doing? So I always stop, not just at the ones that are immediately around us—because New York City is so concentrated—wherever I am. If I see ‘Laundry,’ I tend to stop and see what’s going on.”
He wonders if a laundry is offering services in the wash-and-fold category that his operation isn’t.
“We have a customized approach to laundry, so I’m always wondering, ‘Are other people doing that? Are they copying us? Are there things that we could learn from them?’ That’s really how I think about it.”
He admits being more concerned about what other laundry services were doing during the pandemic, especially whether they were open. “At this point, I think it’s a healthy balance. Just checking in physically to see what other people are doing.”
And Ofsink says he isn’t concerned when competitors evaluate his business.
“We see people coming in. You can just tell. They don’t have anything with them while they’re looking at all of our pricing, asking a lot of questions. I always tell my employees, ‘Never view that as a threat.’ If people want to see what we’re doing, if they want to copy what we’re doing, they can do that because we’re always thinking about the next thing we’ll be doing.”
He likes the “mystery shopper” concept but applied to his own operation instead of a competitor’s.
“I like them to report back to me on how my business doing. … It’s a great way to find out how your staff is doing. You have people call your business, ask questions, see what’s going on, or bring an order in and sort of track it, like the full flow. We’ve done it in the past and gotten a report.
“‘Is the staff friendly? How responsive were they? (How about) ease of use? How quickly were (you) able to get in and out? Were you satisfied with the service? What did you think of the pricing?’ Those kinds of questions. We’re very interested in finding out.”
As much as one is able to do online these days, the information you pick up from visiting locations in person can’t be recreated.
“No matter what technology is out there, it doesn’t matter, there’s something that you get from physically visiting another location. You’re in another atmosphere.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].