CHICAGO — Every industry has its own set of “theories,” although not everyone agrees on them. Try operating your store in a certain way and your distributor or even a fellow operator might chide you about your business plan, exclaiming, “You can’t do that!”
New investors have a lot at stake and they may pin their success on statements they believe to be maxims when they could actually be a bunch of malarkey, generally speaking.
There’s more information available to potential laundry investors and new store owners today than ever before, but how can you make sure the info you’re using in making your self-service laundry business decisions is based in fact? How do you separate the industry myth from reality?
American Coin-Op interviewed representatives from several equipment manufacturers about this issue.
BELIEVE IT’S MYTH OR REALITY?
The manufacturer reps were presented with a list of statements commonly heard in this industry and asked why they believe them to be “myth” or “reality.” Here are just a few, along with their responses:
The self-service laundry industry is recession-resistant.
“Reality,” asserts Tom Weisheipl, Midwest senior regional sales manager for Speed Queen. “Clean clothes are a necessity, though there are many areas where a downturn will reduce customer frequency. However, I have also seen examples where the renter population grows during a recession and store traffic goes up.”
“Reality,” says Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales for Continental Girbau. “Everyone needs clean clothes. When a recession hits, fewer people can afford to own washers and dryers. These individuals do laundry at a vended laundry.”
“Reality, with a caveat that your business will still have its ebbs and flows,” says Kathryn Rowen, North American sales manager for Huebsch. “Everyone needs clean clothes. So, from a customer standpoint, needing to clean clothes won’t go out of style anytime soon. However, the number of investors who are looking to enter the industry, the level of retool and new store activity in your area, (and) pricing wars with your store neighbors will all impact the number of customers that come through your door and how much they will spend in your ’mat.”
Customers don’t usually comment/complain about vend price increases as long as you operate a nice store and give them what they want.
“Myth,” says Mark Schram, North American sales manager for Primus. “Comments and complaints are part of this business. Throw a price increase in and you are bound to get commentary.”
“Vend prices are indeed important,” says Nick Koukourakis, senior product development manager for Whirlpool Corp. Commercial Laundry; he chose to comment on the statement itself but not whether it is myth or reality. “The quality of equipment and the types of services provided affect a customer’s experience. And a clean, well-lit environment are important difference-makers, but the effect to the customer’s wallet will still be a large determining factor. In other words, customers may go elsewhere if nearby stores, even ‘lesser’ ones, have cheaper vend prices—within reason.”
“Reality,” says Jorgensen. “It’s true that laundries with great services and equipment tend to stand apart from the competition. Thus, customers understand they are paying a bit extra for that. If they are going to complain, it’s typically about the vend prices on dryers, not washers.”
There will be fewer, but larger, self-service laundries in the next decade.
“It seems to be the trend in the market,” says Rowen. “Of course, this varies by region and what type of store can best support a population, but the numbers certainly do verify, in general, that it is a true statement.”
“Myth,” Jorgensen asserts. “There will be more and larger vended laundries.”
“Absolutely,” says Weisheipl of there being fewer but larger stores in the future. “This is similar to the way convenience stores have developed. A number of years ago, they were mostly small mom-and-pop operations with a few pumps. Today, they are significantly larger operations with great selection. The same will hold for our industry. Larger stores catering to the customer experience will take over the industry.”
“Myth,” according to Schram. “While some customers will travel distances to reach a vended laundry, many rely on the neighborhood store. So while I do think we will see store size continue to grow, I don’t anticipate a significant drop in the overall number of laundries.”
As investors, new store owners and even veterans explore today’s widely held operational trends and beliefs, it’s important to recognize the factors that may influence them.
“When weighing industry myth vs. industry reality, it is best to keep in mind that the opinions of others may be subjective, with personal experience and emotion weighing in,” Koukourakis says. “It is always best for a prospective owner to do his or her research on the location, the market and other key facets to owning a laundry.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.