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.
The first step in looking at demographics is obviously finding that location to take a look at. Like buying a home, it’s important to not fall in love with a site right out of the gate. Often, the demographics might not be exactly what they need to be to support a profitable store. It’s vital that investors work with an experienced laundry equipment distributor in finding a location. They are your local experts and many times have already identified a variety of viable sites.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have this local resource. Demographics analysis/site selection can’t be mailed in. Investors really need to rely on someone who understands the area and is knowledgeable about neighborhoods, future development, local shifts in housing, etc.
In addition to being the local expert and partner, a distributor also is keenly aware of what finance companies will need to see in the numbers to be comfortable funding a new store. The bottom line is that if the demographics numbers paint a strong picture of success, the store/equipment financing is much more likely to be approved.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Many new investors may want to begin their journey into the business by finding their own location to open discussions with a qualified distributor. So what should they be looking for that might give indications they may have a viable site?
A heavy saturation of multi-housing developments is the first gate to check off. Are there a lot of apartment buildings or mobile home parks close to the location? Though most colleges and universities have on-campus laundry rooms, close proximity to these institutions can be a boost to the store as well. This is because on-campus laundry rooms often are small, with more residential-style equipment.
The multi-load commercial front-load washers — 20, 40, 60, even 80 pounds of capacity — of a Laundromat resonate with students looking to get as many items in one load as possible. They also appreciate getting more done in less time.
Additional thoughts on a site that can help complement the demographics are dedicated parking and having high visibility along a main roadway. Quality neighbors to look for nearby that may hint at solid demographics to piggy back off of include grocery stores, dollar stores, or check cashing stores.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
There are a few cornerstone figures to look for within the demographics report. A good starting point to look for is that renters represent 35% or more of the area’s households. Second point of reference is an average household size of 2.3 residents or higher. Finally, investors should look for 40% of all households in the area earning less than $35,000 per year.
Worth noting is that these numbers are your starting point. This is what you should be targeting in your primary customers. These are the clients who use the laundry out of necessity. They are your principal revenue base and are looking for a fast, convenient experience. Primary customers are your main focus. On average, the primary customer will spend about $500 a year in your laundry.
As you start to pull demographics, you may need to shift your location starting point to find the market area that gives your store the greatest opportunity for success. This is part of the process.
In Tuesday’s conclusion: Numbers are a great starting point but they don’t tell the whole story