Starting Residential Pickup and Delivery (Part 1)

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(Image Composite: © iStockphoto/wowomnom & Ljupco)

Bruce Beggs |

Customers’ growing desire for convenience is doorway to opportunity

CHICAGO — In our “app-powered” economy, adding a residential pickup and delivery service expands a store’s reach, boosts turns per day and increases revenue. But just what does it take to get such a service up and running?

American Coin-Op spoke with a trio of store owners who offer pickup and delivery service. Each has a slightly different approach but all agree that our society’s affection for all things convenient makes now a perfect time to offer pickup and delivery.

GETTING STARTED

Dave Menz owns four Queen City Coin Laundry stores in the Cincinnati area. This month marks the two-year anniversary of his pickup and delivery business called Laundry Magician. Including those working pickup and delivery, his laundry businesses employ around 35 people.

Covering a service territory of about 100 square miles, from Hamilton, Ohio, to Florence, Ky., Laundry Magician charges weekly customers $1.79 per pound (“on demand” customers pay $1.89 per pound). Large bedding and household items are priced by the piece.

The former telephone lineman says a “few different things” prompted him to look into adding pickup and delivery.

“The primary one was we have a drop-off laundry service at three of our four stores, and all of our drop-off laundry services, our customers are very loyal,” Menz says. “That tends to be a repeat business type of thing. I was at one of the stores one day and an older gentleman who’s a great customer of ours came in. I was making small talk. He said this drop-off laundry thing—he was a middle-class gentleman, single—was, in his opinion, the greatest thing ever.

“As he was leaving, he made the comment that, ‘The only thing that would make this better is if you came to my house and got it from me.’

Menz called it a “light bulb moment.” He attended the Clean Show in Atlanta in 2015, where there were a few vendors offering software for pickup and delivery service. “By the time I left the Clean Show, the combination of all the information I had gathered, I was like, ‘This is a no-brainer. I have to do this.”

Since 2014, Daniel Sofranko has owned Perfect Wash Express Laundry Center, a Huntington Beach, Calif., store that offers self serve, drop-off, commercial, and pickup and delivery services utilizing Continental Girbau laundry equipment. His local “delivery zone” centered in Huntington Beach runs south of the 405 freeway, extending from Seal Beach on the northwest to Newport Beach on the southeast.

Regular two-day service costs $1.65 per pound, with a 20-pound minimum for local customers and a 25-pound minimum for non-locals. Rush service costs an additional 50 cents per pound.

“This store is an 1,800-square-foot Laundromat. … It was always supposed to be part of a multi-store model. So I’ve worked much, much harder and longer for one store, but it’s more than that, because this is where the whole system is being created, developed and perfected.

“I promise that it will always be self-service, but fluff and fold and pickup and delivery were always part of the plan. Fluff and fold came first, and we knew we had to get that right before pickup and delivery came along.

“What I would say to people is that it’s a much easier transition to go from self service only to self service plus fluff and fold than it is from offering fluff and fold and then going to pickup and delivery. That is a separate business. The foundation totally relies on the equipment and the drop-off service, but it is an entirely different business that will double your workload on top of everything else.”

In Sofranko’s case, his workforce jumped from 4.5 to 9 employees. One van is used full-time plus he has a “peripheral” vehicle that can be put into full service as needed.

Omar Kasi owns four Bubbles & Suds Laundromat locations in the Bay Ridge and Sunset Park areas of Brooklyn, N.Y. From the time he started offering pickup and delivery in late 2014, staff had to juggle processing orders in the Huebsch equipment around walk-in customers in his 2,300-square-foot store on 5th Avenue.

“I went into the pickup and delivery business, honestly, because some customers just started asking for it,” Kasi says. “At that point, I had a truck, so I started doing it myself. I set up the hours. Customers would call in. Over the next few months, the business did start to grow, we started getting good reviews online, and I ended up hiring my first driver.”

There had to be a balance between his walk-in business and processing orders for pickup and delivery. The two had to co-exist.

“The store that I was processing everything out of is also a regular drop-off store and a self-service store, so I was always very conscious of outgrowing it and alienating my self-service customers,” he says. “I did have a long-term vision that I would finally find a pickup and delivery store with no self-service. But I didn’t want to do that here.”

Indeed, his operation evolved to the point that, in May, Bubbles & Suds opened a dedicated Pickup and Delivery Center on 75th Avenue; it does between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds per week. He employs roughly 15 people strictly for pickup and delivery work, including three full-time drivers. Three vans are in service in covering much of Brooklyn, a service area of roughly 12 square miles.

“I made a conscious effort of going toward downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, where I believe the clientele is more geared for the pickup and delivery,” Kasi says. “You’re talking about younger, more professional people working, really don’t want to do their own laundry.”

Standard pricing is $20 for a 10-pound minimum, and $1.30 per pound beyond the minimum. Individual household items are priced by piece.

In Thursday’s Part 2: Getting organized

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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