CHICAGO — Laundromats use a sizable amount of utilities to operate their washers, dryers and other equipment, so any related energy costs always figure prominently in calculating their bottom line. Natural gas prices have been particularly volatile recently. As inflation pushes costs higher, laundry owners are tasked with finding ways to stay in the black.
This quarter’s American Coin-Op Your Views survey asked the trade audience how these costs have impacted their operations, what actions they’ve taken in response, and which utility costs are of most concern.
In the unscientific poll, 53.1% of respondents say higher energy costs have had a “major impact” on their operating budget. Roughly 41% described the impact as “moderate,” and the remaining share of 6.3% called it “minor.” No one taking the poll said the higher costs had “no impact.”
More than 81% have actively tracked their operation’s energy consumption in the last 12 months, while 18.8% have not. Comparing their usage to the prior 12 months, 50% said it was higher, 42.3% said it was about the same, and the remaining 7.7% said it was lower.
Raising vend prices on washers (75%) or dryers (46.9%) were the actions respondents took most frequently in response to higher energy costs (respondents were invited to pick any or all from several choices). Others included upgrading to LED lighting (31.3%), investing in energy-efficient laundry equipment (12.5%), reducing hours of operation (9.4%), installing occupancy sensors (6.3%) and “other” (6.3%). About 13% reported having taken no action in response.
In many cases, technology played a role in helping respondents control their energy usage. One respondent said almost all of their store systems and controls are remote-controlled and timed to come on and shut off on schedule. Another said having a card-operated store allowed for more immediate, more precise vend price increases appropriate to changing circumstances.
Respondents were asked which utility cost—water, sewer, electricity or natural gas—was of most concern to them and why. Here are some of the responses:
- “There is a better understanding of the future increases to come in water/sewer/electricity, as they have been announced and passed by respective agencies. The natural gas increase was a totally unexpected increase, particularly in the commodity portion. Virtually no warning, and a total lack of proper management by the suppliers and distributors of natural gas.”
- “Water. We are charged for supply and handling, and then removal and treatment of water, by two authorities. The combined cost of water has increased substantially over the last two years with no relief or end in sight. It alone has driven price increases and service curtailments.”
- “Sewer rates are being used to take you to the cleaners. Insane regulations need to hit the brakes.”
- “Electric and gas (are at) most risk to go higher.”
- “Every one of the resources has an impact, mainly because I have only a 1,200-square-foot laundromat and my equipment is 40-plus years old but well maintained. It is getting harder to find parts and the cost of new equipment will put me back in debt. I’m in my early 70s and this will probably … make me sell my business of 22 years.”
- “All of these have increased. I watch all of them equally.”
American Coin-Op’s Your 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.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].