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Survey: Most Happy with Distributor but Satisfaction During Pandemic Not as Clear-cut

Parts ordering/requests tops list of services that many store owners rely on

CHICAGO — Most self-service laundry owners polled in this quarter’s American Coin-Op “Your Views” survey are happy with their distributor, yet the share who think the same has worked hard to stay in contact and help them remain operational during the pandemic is far less.

Among owners who responded to the unscientific poll, 52.8% are “extremely happy” and 33.3% are “somewhat happy” with their distributor(s). Equal shares of 5.6% are “somewhat unhappy” or “extremely unhappy,” and the remaining 2.8% are neither happy nor unhappy.

When asked if they believe their distributor has worked diligently to stay in contact and to help them remain operational during the coronavirus pandemic, 58.3% of respondents replied yes and 41.7% said no.

Self-service laundry owners rely on distributors for a variety of things. Most popular among respondents is parts ordering and requests (83.8%). Maintenance/repairs (56.8%), equipment leasing/financing (37.8%), store layout/design (32.4%) and pricing strategies (18.9%) are some others.

Roughly 19% of store owners take advantage of distributors offering assistance in areas such as demographics research, scouting new store locations and service schools.

More than 70% of respondents typically attend their distributor’s open house and/or service schools. At these events, store owners most look forward to technical/operational advice (42.9%), deals or specials on equipment (25.7%) and networking opportunities (20%).

If the opportunity arose to change distributors, very few respondents would take advantage of it, according to the survey results. Roughly 39% would not make a change and another 25% doubt they would make a change.

On the other end of the spectrum, 8.3% would strongly consider a change and 5.6% would definitely make the change.

The remaining 22.2% aren’t sure what they would do.

In closing, those taking the survey were invited to offer comments on how they utilize their distributor in operating their self-service laundry business. Here are some of the anonymous responses:

  • “[Your question about changing distributors] assumes that the pie has been cut into pieces and things are set in stone so I must use one of them. When a distributor pulls a bait and switch, I will never use or even talk to them after that! You would think the big boys would figure this out.”
  • “Most important to me is pricing on parts and equipment, and very fast shipping on parts.”
  • “[Personnel at my distributor] are more like dear friends. With my husband in the hospital, they’ve offered to come over to help.”
  • “I try to do all work myself but when I can’t get a machine going, I have to call for help. They usually play dumb on the phone and when they get there (at $100-plus an hour from the time they leave town to me, even if he is going right by that day), he will check everything that I have checked after telling him what I have done. Then he pulls a part out of his bag and gets the machine going, which I am glad to see, but that just cost me $300. Makes you think twice about calling. There goes my profit for that day.”
  • “If you have to rely on help from your distributor to keep your place going, you won’t make it.”
  • “We have built two stores in 11 years with this distributor. They and the manufacturer, I feel, keep the operator’s interests in mind.”

American Coin-Op’sYour Views” survey presents an unscientific snapshot of the trade audience’s viewpoints. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.

Subscribers to American Coin-Op emails are invited to participate anonymously in the survey. The entire trade audience is encouraged to take part, as a greater number of responses helps to better define owner/operator opinions and industry trends.