CHICAGO — Self-service laundry customers, depending on how much dirty laundry they bring along and how many machines are available to them, could spend a couple of hours in your store. That means they could have a pretty healthy wait in front of them while their clothes spin in the washer and tumble in the dryer.
But what to do while they wait? As a business owner, you have the power to make your customers’ visit to your store as comfortable as possible, and maybe even downright enjoyable. And that’s where amenities like vending machines come in.
If you’re a prospective self-service laundry investor, or you’re currently in the midst of developing your first store, when it comes to vending, start with the basics.
“From a new store owner’s standpoint, coming into the industry, they would need the basic supplies, which are detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and stain removers or additives and boosters,” says Vince Hansen, president of Vend-Rite, a vending equipment maker and supplier that has served the laundry industry since 1952. “I don’t believe many store owners look at offering those products as a profit center—even though it is for them—but I think they look at that as a necessity.”
Offering items like drinks, chips and coffee would be considered profit centers, according to Hansen.
“Many laundries are selling larger ‘retail’ sized laundry products over the counter or through venders,” he says. “Drinks and snacks, ice cream, coffee, sandwiches, even fruits and vegetables. Laundry customers at the bare minimum are in a laundry over 50 minutes, and people get thirsty and hungry.”
In some cases, a laundry might offer a vended product based on their services. “For instance, suntan lotion is an item that’s been vended in laundries because they also happen to vend tanning booth time,” Hansen says. “Depending on what other services they may offer, there could be some other ancillary products that support that side business.
“Hangers are another item we’ve seen vended. Laundry bags, or the custom imprinted cotton laundry bag, those can be vended as well.”
A quick internet search reveals that cigarettes, DVDs and lottery tickets are also being vended in businesses like laundries.
Roni Moore is vice president of public affairs for the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), which represents convenience services, including vending, micro markets, as well as office and pantry services.
“Our member companies provide a very broad array of products and services, from snacks and beverages to technology equipment to dry cleaning,” Moore says. “We meet our customers where they are, at work, school and play.”
Today’s venders come in a variety of shapes and sizes, chilled and unchilled. Most have a keypad and LCD display for easy selection.
“There are new products coming out every day, so the equipment needs to be able to adapt to the variety of packaging on the retail side,” Hansen says. “Companies spend a lot of money on packaging, in color and shape and size, to make their products stand out from other retail products on the grocery store shelf.”
“The convenience services industry has been innovating, keeping pace with technology and consumer needs,” Moore says. “This includes the opportunity to pay with all forms of payment, including cashless technology.”
In Thursday’s conclusion: Promote vended products just as you would your washer/dryer mix or drop-off service