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Ten to Try: Extra Profit Centers (Part I)

Paul Partyka |

CHICAGO — Some extra profit centers have generated additional revenue for operators. Some extra profit centers have come and gone. However, if there's one thing that coin laundry operators have learned, it's that for every failed extra profit center, there's a new one just waiting to be launched by an eager person.In part one of this story, the focus is on five extra profit centers. Take a close look, you may find one of these extra profit centers to your liking. Remember, all it takes is finding just one particular business, service or product for your laundry to offer.GETTING WIREDYou can't deny it: more and more people are spending more and more time using their computers, especially accessing the Internet. With coin laundry customers having so much time on their hands, isn't it a natural to go online in the laundry?If you follow business- and computer-related news, you have probably heard about Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity). Wi-Fi enables laptop users to access the Internet wirelessly.If you provide a Wi-Fi hotspot, laptop users can check their e-mail and surf the Internet. If your store attracts a lot of college students, this service can be ideal. More importantly, every time someone connects to the Internet, you earn revenue.To offer Wi-Fi, you would need to install a base station (little space required) and have a high-speed Internet connection at the laundry. That's some of the technical end; there's always the marketing aspect to consider. If you look into this service, make sure that the company that you are doing business with helps you promote the service. Marketing and visibility tools can include preprinted marketing materials to place around the laundry to alert potential users of its availability.CASH ON HANDWhile there's no such thing as a "sure thing," it's probably pretty safe to assume that many people have ATM cards. What about adding an ATM to your store?Even if space is tight at your laundry, the newer ATMS are designed with a small footprint in order to take up less space. An ATM may also boost additional extra profit centers you offer by putting cash in the hands of your customers. And don't forget that an ATM is also an extra profit center in itself as it generates income on each transaction.If you are considering adding an ATM, think about the following things:* An ATM may be ideal for a laundry in a strip center. If you are in a shopping center with a bank, that may be a negative.* If you go with an ATM, think about offering an extra service or product. Customers will have access to more money.* ATM placement is crucial. If you put the machine in any type of corner, it loses impact.* Market the ATM. Put a sign in your window. Try to get an illuminated sign from the company that supplies the machine.* Shop for the best deal. The cost for a machine varies and there are different types of financing packages.* Make sure the company you are dealing with has a service department. While the machines are said to be reliable, if your ATM goes down, you want it back up and running in 24 hours if possible.A LARGER WASH ORDERIf you are looking for something a bit more substantial than offering an extra service or product, you can try a stand-alone business, such as a car wash. Washing your car while you wait for your laundry seems to be a natural thing, especially in today's hustle-and-bustle society. A couple of self-service bays on your property might do the trick. For customers who simply want to tidy up their cars, coin-op vacuuming machines could even be considered.To set up a self-serve car wash, you, of course, need land next to your store. You need to take into consideration stack-up space (for at least two vehicles per bay), turning radius (allows users to enter and exit the wash), and setting up a vacuum area. A self-service bay may be about 16 feet wide by 20 to 24 feet long. How many bays you would need would depend on your location, demographics, etc.Before you leap into anything, keep in mind that each community has its own requirements regarding building set-backs, curb cuts, off-street stacking, landscaping, etc. Not only do you need the space, you need community approval.If you don't favor multiple self-serve bays, an automatic wash could be added. This type of wash, unlike the self-serve unit, requires no customer labor. You can even charge far more for this type of wash. However, an automatic wash may cost more than double what a self-serve bay might cost. It will also be more maintenance-intensive, according to industry sources.Like any other stand-alone business, location is always key. Your wash must be seen and be near a high-traffic area. Keep in mind that a successful car wash can attract customers 24 hours a day. Customers have the option of using the wash at their convenience, not just when your laundry is open.DOING MORE THAN CLEANING CLOTHESIf you're going to let people wash and dry their clothes, why not take it a step further? Offering an alterations/repair service could generate new revenue and give your attendant more things to do. Finding a person to do the work could be difficult, but paying them above the minimum wage or setting up some type of commission deal could help.An alterations/repair work area requires about 100 to 150 square feet of space. You'll need some equipment to start (straight-stitch, iron, etc.) and some supplies (thread, zippers, etc.). The start-up cost for a one-person operation may be around $1,400 to $2,000.It might be easy to get carried away if you start this type of operation. It's recommended that an operator should start with basic repairs and alterations. These are the types of services that coin laundry customers may desire, an industry source says. What is the going rate for these services? A typical customer may spend about $15 to $20.Promoting this service requires good signage and aggressive attendants. Give your employees incentive to mention your service.GOOD EATINGFood and coin laundries have a long tradition. Did you ever want to expand on your food offerings and go beyond traditional snack venders? No, this doesn't involve the addition of a deli or small restaurant. There are two ways to go. First, you can go to an upgraded vender, one that offers such treats as pizza or ice cream. While these venders are more expensive than the standard candy/snack units, offering certain items in the right setting could be profitable.The second option allows you to kick things up a notch without a major investment. You bring non-vended food into your laundry on a much smaller scale.Today, operators can simply purchase a variety of specific food-related units such as a cotton candy machine, popcorn popper, snow cone machine, hot dog grill or even nacho warmer.If you offer a limited amount and type of food, your space requirements are greatly reduced, you utilize your attendant a bit more, and you can still turn a profit. Just as important, your total investment in one of these food-related units will be far less than if you attempted to set up any type of small restaurant setting, etc.One popular snack to consider is nachos. A nacho warmer/merchandiser, for example, might be around 12 inches wide by 15 inches deep. A unit like this would have the capacity for about 50 servings.Click here to read Part II of this story. 

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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