CHICAGO — Operators often cite “customer base” as a business barometer. What’s been happening to your customer base? Forty-nine percent of respondents have seen their customer base decline since July 2009, while 33 percent have seen their customer base grow, according to our latest survey. Fifteen percent say their customer base hasn’t changed, and 3 percent aren’t sure if their base has grown or declined in the last year. ATTRACTING/LOSING CUSTOMERSStore improvements (new equipment/look of the store) is the No. 1 reason (40 percent) for customer growth, according to respondents. The following reasons for growth drew a similar number of responses: “greater emphasis on marketing,” “more customers living in the area,” and “better customer service.”For those experiencing a declining customer base, 53 percent blame this on “fewer people living in the area,” followed by “more competition” (17.6 percent). A host of other reasons accounted for the rest of the responses.MARKETING EFFORTSThe self-service laundry industry has never been known for great marketing. Only 6.7 percent say “improved marketing” is the reason for customer growth. Marketing efforts usually seem to greatly vary from operator to operator. This survey bears that out.Thirty percent of respondents market “now and then,” 21 percent say they “always” market, and 18 percent market “most of the time.” Yet, 27 percent “rarely” market, and 3 percent “never” market.TOO MANY STORES?Is your area oversaturated with self-service laundries? Forty-seven percent believe their area is oversaturated with stores, while 44 percent say this isn’t the case. Nine percent are not sure if there are too many stores in their market.IT ADDS UPMore customers mean more dollars. How much is a new customer worth to your self-service laundry on a yearly basis? The answers varied quite a bit. Equal numbers (21.2 percent) say $401-$500 and more than $600. Other figures include $201-$300, 18.2 percent; $301-$400, 18.2 percent; $501-$600, 12.1 percent; $101-$200, 6.1 percent; and less than $100, 3 percent.While the American Coin-Op Wire survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.Subscribers to the Wire e-mails — distributed weekly — are invited to participate in an industry survey each month. Click here and follow the menu instructions to sign up for the free e-mail service.