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Survey: Distributors a Bit More Optimistic (Part 2)

Paul Partyka |

CHICAGO — In some ways, this distributor survey had a lot in common with last year’s survey. Maybe I’m a glass-half-full guy, but a couple of positive things jumped out at me this year. First, it was interesting to see how some of the distributors were utilizing “better” locations — locations that became available because landlords were unable to fill them due to a slow economy.I was also encouraged to see the distributors a bit more optimistic about this year’s sales forecast as compared to the 2009 sales forecast.Every distributor on American Coin-Op’s mailing list was invited to participate in the unscientific survey.THE RIGHT MIX?Deciding how much equipment to put into a new store is a crucial decision. Operators want to generate revenue, yet they don’t want an overcrowded store. When it comes to filling a new store, the issue of top loaders also surfaces. Are owners passing on top loaders? If you’re thinking about adding a new store, or wondering what that new store down the street is going to offer, take a look at what distributors are installing throughout the country.Sixty-two percent of the new stores had at least one top loader, up just a bit from last year’s figure (60 percent). (In reality, this figure may be a bit lower than 62 percent. Our new electronic survey form allowed respondents to skip the top-loader question and proceed to the front-loader and dryer-pocket questions. There were 12 percent fewer responses to this question when compared to the front-loader and dryer-pocket questions. One might assume that some respondents didn’t install any top loaders, and skipped the question as a result.)More specifically, here are the most popular numbers of top loaders put into new stores in 2009: 

1) 02) 63) 104) 125) 4

Newly constructed laundries in 2009 have 5.7 top loaders. (This figure factors in the stores with no top loaders.)Here are the most common numbers of front loaders installed in newly constructed laundries last year:

1) 302) 503) 404) 105) 35

Newly constructed laundries in 2009 have an average of 27.3 front loaders. This is almost identical to last year’s figure (27.8).The average newly constructed laundry in 2009 has 32.6 dryer pockets.THE IDEAL SIZE?While people say a small laundry can be successful in the right situation, surveys seem to show that industry representatives expect to see larger stores in the future. Let’s see if the newly constructed stores in 2009 match that expectation.Here are the most popular store sizes, in square feet, for those that opened in 2009:

1) 3,0002) 2,5003) 2,0004) 4,0005) 1,800

Twenty-four percent of the newly constructed stores are 2,000 square feet or less. Fifty-seven percent are between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet.The largest laundry in the survey is 6,000 square feet, and the smallest store is 1,100 square feet.The average newly constructed store in 2009 covers 2,712 square feet. The prior averages were 2,743 square feet (2008) and 3,200 square feet (2007).LOOKING BACKIf you built a store in 2009, how does it match up with the numbers from this survey? A quick equipment snapshot of newly constructed stores should give you some perspective. Newly constructed stores in 2009 feature 5.7 top loaders, 27.3 front loaders and 32.6 dryer pockets. The stores are, on average, 2,712 square feet.Here are the new-store profiles for the previous three surveys:

2008: 5.8 top loaders, 27.8 front loaders, 32 dryer pockets, and 2,743 square feet.2007: 6.7 top loaders, 27.7 front loaders, 35.2 dryer pockets, and 3,220 square feet.2006: 9.5 top loaders, 28.2 front loaders, 34 dryer pockets, and 2,831 square feet.

LOOKING FOR ANSWERSStrangely enough, the distributors that did well with new-store construction in 2009 had, to a certain extent, a slow economy assisting them. The top two reasons for their success were the availability of better locations (i.e. landlords couldn’t fill these spots) and less competition (older stores closing and some new-store construction being put on hold). Distributors also mentioned that it was a bit easier to work with landlords on leases.For those with lagging new-store construction, it’s no surprise that financing problems continue to bog down investors. The slow economy and impact fees finished in a tie for the No. 2 spot. Other reasons include high rents, too much competition and stringent government regulations.DISTRIBUTOR ACTIVITIESThirty-six percent of the distributors broker coin laundries. Thirty-six percent of respondents operate some type of route laundry. Last year, 43 percent operated some type of route laundry.Do you consider open houses/service schools a valuable distributor offering? Fifty-five percent plan on holding some type of open house or service school in 2011.As usual, most of the events will take place in the spring and fall. Fifty-four percent take place in the fall, while 38 percent are scheduled for the spring. The rest of the events will take place in the summer.(For a detailed calendar of distributor events, keep a close eye on our Calendar section.)THE OUTLOOKWith a good portion of the year in the books, are distributors optimistic or pessimistic about 2010 overall sales? Forty-eight percent expect 2010 sales to surpass those of 2009. Thirty-nine percent expect overall sales this year to be the same as last year, and 13 percent expect lower sales this year.These projections are slightly more optimistic than last year’s projections.To read Part 1 of this story click here. 

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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