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Survey: Industry in Better State Than Five Years Ago, Say Majority of Store Owners

Most also believe industry does good job of projecting positive image

CHICAGO — The vended laundry industry is in a better state than it was five years ago, says the majority of coin laundry owners polled in this quarter’s American Coin-Op Your Views survey.

Among respondents, 69.4% say things are generally better than five years ago. About 17% say things are worse than five years ago, and 13.9% say the vended laundry industry is in the same state it was in 2011. (Editor's note: So as not to confuse the issue, this survey was taken prior to the Nov. 8 presidential election.)

And just what made respondents answer in the way they did? Here are some of the explanations:

  • “We’re up almost 10% — biggest problem is getting help.”
  • “Revenue has been good and steady. There is room for improvement.”
  • “Economic environment is bad for business. Increased minimum wage has had a large impact.”
  • “Older population do not want to do their laundry. Great for the wash/dry/fold business.”
  • “Revenue growth barely keeping up with growth of operating expenses.”

As for projecting a positive image, a similar majority—67.6%—thinks the industry does a good job of that. Nearly 19% believe the industry doesn’t present a positive image, and 13.5% are unsure.

The survey asked coin laundry owners to name at least one way that the average store owner can seek improvements in five areas: equipment, store condition, marketing and promotions, customer relations, and planning for growth.

Regarding equipment, most responses had to do with upgrading older equipment to more energy-efficient models, and keeping machines in working order by performing regular maintenance. “It’s doesn’t have to be new … just work,” wrote one store owner. Another suggested that owners should “upgrade equipment to better compete against old stores.”

As for store condition, keeping the premises clean was, without a doubt, the comment offered by most respondents. Others related to having good lighting and decorating for the seasons.

Social media and word of mouth were at the heart of most comments received about marketing and promotions. “Treat customers well and they will tell their friends about your store,” wrote an owner. Another suggests “letting your customers know that you care about them.”

As for customer service, having a regular presence in your store, communicating with customers and treating people like you would want to be treated were common suggestions. Hiring good attendants who are well-trained and present a good appearance was another theme.

In what ways can equipment manufacturers and/or distributors best help vended laundry owners succeed? Some of the survey responses:

  • “Promotions that allow stores to try different equipment before purchasing allows them to be exposed to newer, more efficient equipment.”
  • “Promote in social media and TV commercials the advantages to using Laundromats.”
  • “Provide preventive maintenance on equipment at reasonable cost. Repairs are inevitable, and owners want a company they can rely on.”
  • “Being a liaison to owners for new and creative ideas that help make more profits.”

Finally, the survey asked if store owners bear any responsibility to the vended laundry industry as a whole, or if they are responsible only to themselves and their businesses. Some of the survey responses:

  • “Must focus on your own business.”
  • “We all bear this responsibility. I look forward to hearing ‘I have never been in a laundry like this before’ when people walk into my stores. We can only change our image one customer at a time.”
  • “Broadly speaking, yes, we all represent the industry. However, I can only be responsible for my operation.”
  • “When owners stand together, they have a louder voice and they are easier to listen to, i.e., taxes, additional laws that can hurt the industry.”
  • “A rising tide raises all boats. Yes, I am responsible.”

While American Coin-Op’s Your Views survey presents a snapshot of store owners’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it is not scientific. Qualified subscribers to American Coin-Op e-mail blasts are invited to participate anonymously in a quarterly industry survey.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].