CHICAGO — Even though the self-service laundry is trending toward offering larger wash and dry capacities in single-pocket machines, stack equipment has been in use for decades and still figures prominently in many stores across the country.
This month, American Coin-Op invited several representatives from vended laundry equipment manufacturers to answer some questions about this specific equipment category and its position within the overall equipment mix.
Q: What immediate benefits does installing stack equipment present to a store’s customers and to a store’s owner?
Matthew Conn, senior manager for Commercial Laundry Product Development & Marketing, Whirlpool Corp., parent company of ADC and Maytag: If you think about it, it’s about real estate. They can free up space to make the Laundromat more comfortable for their consumers, or to maximize their square footage. When you think about what it takes to rent space … that’s generally the first benefit we hear when we’re talking to customers about stacks.
If you think about that stack configuration, some people like the (lower) entry, from an ergonomic perspective, for consumers. I think the higher pockets are generally harder for people to get into but worth the trade-off for the owner.
Kevin Hietpas, director of sales, Dexter Laundry: In any retail business, laundries included, profitability is all about maximizing productive capacity (revenue per square foot). While stack dryers have been around for many years, it is only recently that truly commercial stack washer/dryers have been available in multiple capacities.
Stack dryers have been a great way to add drying capacity and make the most of available wall capacity. Stack washer/dryers, on the other hand, offer laundry owners the opportunity to add both washing and drying capacity in the same floor space. This innovation helps owners think differently and discover new ways of making the most of every foot of space in their location.
These products give creative laundry owners a much wider range of store layout and design options. Now, being able to get more productive capacity (washing and drying) into a location, owners have the opportunity to look at space, in good locations, that they might not have seriously considered due to size or internal layout limitations.
With layouts utilizing new stack washer/dryer options, we have locations where we can increase the available washing and drying capacity in the same floor space by over 30% while still maintaining a customer-friendly layout. And these differently sized or shaped locations might very well be available at very favorable rental rates.
Tod Sorensen, regional sales manager, Girbau North America, parent company of Continental Girbau: The fundamental benefit of stack dryers is the dual-pocket capacity in a given square footage. When selecting a typical 45-pound-capacity stack dryer over a 75-pound-capacity, single-pocket dryer, you’ll provide 20% greater dry capacity within a 20% smaller footprint.
Stack dryers are also used to offset the increasing rent, labor and operational costs of laundries, allowing for greater wash capacity and turnover in a similar space.
Q: Are there certain store configurations that are possible only when using stack equipment?
Hietpas: Locations needing to maximize revenue-producing capacity due to high rental costs are always a great place to utilize stack equipment. Stack washer/dryers are also a great fit for very narrow locations (under 20 feet wide). They allow an owner to use one side for equipment (washing and drying) and one side for folding and still allow space in between for customer movement. Stack washer/dryers are also a great fit for smaller locations (under 500 square feet).
Kathryn Rowen, general manager, North American Laundromat, Alliance Laundry Systems (including Huebsch and Speed Queen): The great thing about products like our stack washer-extractor/tumble dryer is that they help owners maximize floor space and generate ROI where single units may not be an option. Locations that might otherwise not have looked profitable because of small square footage can now be viable with stacks.
Sorensen: All configurations benefit from the capacity gain and space savings of stack equipment, but those in commercial strip malls, or limited in the number of outside walls, benefit the most.
Picture a strip mall with retail on both sides of the laundry. The most practical installation of dryers may be on the back wall, closest to the combustion air source and venting termination. Stack equipment offers increased capacity for what may be a limited linear back-wall space. Customer flow from entry to washers to dryers to folding can be configured in such a way as to promote clean, efficient movement through the space.
Conn: They can create a bank of stack dryers that all occupy one wall. A Laundromat owner can really optimize space and get down to a smaller total footprint. In terms of specific configurations … where you’ve got washers on one wall and dryers on another wall, or the more typical format where you’ve got a bulkhead and a bunch of washers in the middle and dryers all around the outside, (stack equipment) supports all of those configurations, I would argue, equally.
There are some interesting dynamics internationally that happen with stack products that we see, especially with our smaller-platform, single-load stacks where we see people build whole Laundromats with just a bank of stacks, in places like Indonesia.
In Part 2 on Tuesday: Capacity and control options; marketing or promotional opportunities; the impact of the “large capacity” trend