RIPON, Wis. — What makes a vended laundry successful? If Laundromat success is a combination of several elements, the base is demographics. A bright, clean, well-run laundry will fail quite quickly without the proper demographics to drive business.
Sadly, as we have also seen, that old, run-down facility operating with equipment dating back to the Jimmy Carter administration can be immensely successful, despite the owner “checking out” of his business sometime during the Reagan years.
So as the old real estate cliché goes, it’s all about location, location, location.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
I mentioned in Part 1 the need to find a local distributor expert, somebody who thoroughly understands the vended laundry business. Not all folks who perform demographics analyses truly understand our business. They also may not have an accurate view of the local areas you are considering. So again, rely on a local expert.
The reason for this is simple. While the numbers are a great starting point, they often do not tell the whole story. Demographics reports are one-dimensional. Vended laundry site location analysis and demographics review is anything but.
We have plenty of examples where the demographics numbers do not tell the whole story. For instance, what about that new apartment complex that is under construction down the road? Without any residents yet, it doesn’t show up on a report. Or perhaps it went up since the last census and isn’t reflected in it.
In one instance, we saw a location with horrible demographics and overall low population. But it was a resort town with a number of rental properties that generate a large amount of wash-dry-fold business. Housekeeping staff for the properties also use the laundry to process linens for the rentals. Demographics hid the fact that a laundry could be successful, albeit with a different core customer base.
Mobile home parks and university populations sometimes can be missing from demographics reports. Other times, great numbers can also lie. One example is a location that showed amazing demographics within a 3-mile radius of a location. A drive through the area told a different story. The immediate mile around the proposed location was terribly unsafe, to the point that it likely would never draw the big numbers of residents living in the 2- to 3-mile range.
Again, this is where local expertise is paramount. It’s also why getting in your car and driving around the area can provide the best evidence of whether the demographics report is telling the full story.
SIZING FOR THE CUSTOMER BASE
Once the location checks out through the demographics and tour of the area, it’s time to see how these factors drive store design. A distributor will be able to assist with right-sizing the laundry for the demographics.
They will also use the numbers to drive equipment mix. Do the numbers show a large household size? Then the store may lean toward more 60-pound and 80-pound washer-extractors. Heavy college and university crowd? It may be smaller front loaders that get installed.
Are apartments mostly one-bedroom or are they two- or three-bedroom units? The more residents in those units, the more loads of laundry. Thus the store may focus on large-capacity washers and stack tumble dryers.
There’s nothing cut and dried about performing demographics analysis when selecting a vended laundry location. While numbers are important, you still need those “feet on the street” to look beyond the demographics report.
This is why even industry veterans can benefit from enlisting the assistance of a qualified distributor in their area to act as an extra set of eyes. Before making a sizable investment, investors should feel comfortable that they reviewed all factors, projections, etc. A distributor rooted in the area can be your local expert.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.