CHICAGO — Laundromats generally share many similarities, so how and where such a service business differentiates itself from its competitors carries great importance.
And there are often sure signs when a laundry business isn’t setting itself apart, according to Bill Corbett Jr., chief strategy officer for Corbett Public Relations based in New York state.
“A sure sign is certainly that there is silence in the real world and online,” Corbett says. “Nobody is talking about the business, nobody is sharing info online, nobody cares enough to provide a review (good or bad), and when people are asked about the business, they don’t know anything about it or the owner and/or staff.
“When a business is seen as a commodity, there is no reason to think it is any better than any other provider of the same service.”
Laundromat owners we interviewed say they can detect other signs.
“Not embracing new technology such as payment systems and convenience,” says Tim Gill, a multi-store owner with locations in Florida and Georgia. “Not letting customers know what service you have available, such as wash/dry/fold.”
Todd Ofsink, founder and CEO of Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat in New York City, sees competing solely on price as a troubling sign: “A competition based solely on a price point is almost always a race to the bottom.”
Randy Roberts, who partners with a cousin in operating Columbus Express Laundry in Ohio, sees something else: “When there is a state of disrepair in the laundromat that shows that the owner is using a harvest strategy, instead of investing in it to maintain an optimal operational environment for the equipment and general state of appearance, no matter its age.”
“When store revenues are stagnant (except for price increases, perhaps), you need to evaluate your situation,” says James Radovic, owner of two self-service laundries in Florida. “If you think you have saturated your market area, think again. You need to look at other laundries in your market area and see what they are doing for ideas.”
Michael Finkelstein’s Associated Services Corp. operates a large chain of laundries in the Southeast. To him, a laundry business isn’t setting itself apart if it’s “duplicating the same services and has made no effort from an appearance, staffing, or equipment standpoint to say, ‘Look at me and check me out!’”
Edgar Vasquez, who owns two North Carolina stores, sees three indicators: “1. Too many bad reviews, suggesting poor laundromat impression or cleanliness. 2. Too many customer complaints leading to too many refunds, suggesting poor customer service. 3. Too many equipment breakdowns, suggesting poor maintenance.”
Kristyn Van Ostern, who co-owns Wash Street in New Hampshire, says her business actively tracks the metric of returning customers vs. new customers: “If our percentage of returning customers month over month is slipping, then we know that they are likely going to a competitor. We also look at the number of new customers. If we aren’t bringing in new customers, then we probably aren’t articulating why we are the right choice.”
Check back Thursday for Part 2!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].