Do you ever take your laundry for granted? Maybe an owner simply loses some perspective when it comes to the appearance of his/her store. After all, if you’re focused on many things, such as maintenance, aesthetics can often take a back seat.However, a drab appearance, even in a clean store, can turn some customers off, according to distributors. Several distributors offer tips about how to spruce up a laundry — and not empty your wallet in the process.THE SILENT PROTEST“You can’t be clean enough,” says Mitch Sumners, Pride Laundry Systems, North Hills, Calif. “No one ever said a Laundromat is too clean. You can still create an awful lot of impact with a fresh coat of paint.“Your signage also needs to be in good shape. New signage can help, but don’t overdo it. If I want to read stuff, I will bring it with me.”Sprucing up the exterior can be a bit more challenging, especially if landlord restrictions limit your options. Sumners believes the store exterior, like the interior, can also greatly benefit from improved signage and a fresh coat of paint. “If I saw a bad store exterior, it would keep me out of the inside of the laundry.”If you’re willing to invest a few more dollars, the floor is a good place to start, he says. “The floor often gets overlooked, and shows wear and tear. This impacts your customers subconsciously. After painting, a couple thousand dollars and the right tile can do a lot for the laundry.“If you have some more money, look at ceramic tile. More new laundries are using [ceramic tile] to go with their high initial investment.”In the appearance “game,” Sumners says the use of neon is a bit overrated. “Neon is decorative and eye-catching, but after six or eight weeks, it can be old news.”As for underrated moves, advertise after you make improvements, he says. “Customers move away every year. How do the new ones know about your store?”Don’t be fooled when it comes to the importance of maintaining a good look, he adds. Think about the “silent-protest” factor. “Customers are not going to come to you with complaints about how the store looks. You don’t know what they want, but in the end, they will vote with their feet.”Sumners says store appearance rates an 8 on a 1-10 scale of success factors.CREATING THE IMAGE OF SECURITY“Most of the laundries I see are pretty clean, but the equipment needs to be updated, and the aesthetics can use some sprucing up,” says Dave Rackley, Midwest Commercial Laundry Equipment, Salina, Kan.“Painting is the No. 1 priority,” Rackley says. “Plus, a little soap and some elbow grease can do wonders. Operators get a bit complacent. They are in the store all day. I see different things when I visit.”Rackley also believes that the exterior is key because it touches on several things, such as appearance and safety. “I like a brightly lit store with large windows, so your customers and the police can look in. You should also keep weeds out of the parking lot. Comfort and safety are the keys.“Customers can be lost with a weak exterior. In a mobile society, such as the one that exists in the small towns of Kansas, people can drive across small towns in just a few minutes, and seek out the better-looking stores.”If you have a few more dollars to spend, Rackley suggests focusing on lighting. “Lighting brightens up a store and improves your efficiency. Only one store in my area has new, efficient lighting.”Flooring can be an underrated improvement, but he wouldn’t use ceramic tile in a small-town environment because the cost couldn’t be justified.Rackley rates store appearance as a 7 or 8 on a 1-10 scale.A LITTLE MORE IS REQUIREDHaving a good-looking store may not be good enough for some owners, says Matt Lamons, Loomis Brothers, Fenton, Mo.Some of the strip-shopping-center laundries have struggling neighbors, Lamons says. With surrounding stores closing, laundry owners need their stores to be lit more, and become more of an attraction, just to let people know that they are still in business, he explains.“Overall, the self-service laundries in my area (near St. Louis) are worn out. A lot of them probably went up in the 1980s, and never had a makeover, even if the equipment was updated. It seems like Grandma’s wallpaper is still on the walls.”A good coat of paint would be nice, and changing some light bulbs and fixtures would go a long way toward improving appearance, he suggests. “I think painting is always underrated. Two stores we built used urban-style energetic colors, and got plenty of compliments. Doing the laundry is a drab experience; having nice, vibrant colors make the store a happier and cleaner place.”If ceramic tile is too costly, he believes epoxy paint on the floor is a good alternative. “[An epoxy-painted] floor dries hard as concrete, is nonabrasive, and looks like a showroom floor.” An epoxy kit, which covers about 100 square feet, can be purchased for $60, he adds.The interior appearance is more important than the exterior, he adds, but bad exterior lighting and poor windows can still drive customers away.Exterior signage is also key, and needs to be lit during the evening, he says.With more nontraditional customers using laundries today, aesthetics take on a greater importance (8-9 on 1-10 scale), he believes. “Some of these new customers love to do their laundry during the week, and want to come to a store because it is nice-looking and clean. The look of the store is equally important as the equipment mix.”Come back next week for Part 2 of this story!