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Year-End Roundtable: Improving the Industry (Conclusion)

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(Photo: ©iStockphoto/alxpin)

Bruce Beggs |

CHICAGO — As we come to the end of another year, where do you see your coin laundry operation? Is it better? Worse? About the same?

While anchored in a public service that is decades in the making, the coin laundry industry still is subject to influences both internal and external. While the basics of self-service laundry operations are largely unchanged, there are other factors at play when it comes to building your business.

American Coin-Op invited representatives from several manufacturers and distributors, as well as a top coin laundry association executive, to size up the industry today compared to five years ago, to identify opportunities for stores to improve, and to establish the manufacturer’s, distributor’s and store owner’s roles in pushing this industry forward.

Seated at our virtual roundtable were:

  • Chris Brick, regional sales manager, Maytag Commercial Laundry
  • Jason Fleck, regional sales manager, Huebsch
  • Gary Gauthier, national sales manager for vended laundries, Milnor
  • John Kelly, regional sales manager, Speed Queen
  • John Olsen, vice president of vended products, Laundrylux
  • Tony Regan, senior vice president, global sales, ADC
  • Brian Wallace, president/CEO, Coin Laundry Association

WHAT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY?

So, as a store owner, do you believe you have a responsibility to the industry as a whole, or is it every man and woman for themselves? Virtually every expert interviewed mentioned the need for association.

“A store owner’s primary responsibility is to operate a clean, attractive and profitable business for the benefit of their customers,” Gauthier says. “Simply doing that is a great contribution to our industry. Other efforts like association involvement are also important and should be strongly considered by all in our industry.”

“Obviously, it is that individual business owner’s capital at risk when a store is built or purchased. So, the primary responsibility remains with himself or herself. However, the overall health of the industry is impacted by each and every store,” Wallace says. “Not only through the level of service provided to the public, but also by the image projected to other key constituencies from legislators to landlords.”

“Part of the power of associations like CLA is the ability to rally the industry toward improving business conditions for all. For the best laundry owners, what’s best for their business is completely aligned with what’s best for our industry.”

“Store owners should get involved with their local chapter associations so they can stay ahead of the curve,” Olsen says.

“Store owners must be willing to self-educate and become familiar with the industry,” Brick says. “By being part of related associations, partaking in trade shows and customer events, and providing useful feedback to both distributors and manufacturers.”

Fleck believes owners have a responsibility to get involved in laundry associations both locally and nationally to tackle industry challenges. “In my experience, owners who participate in the industry are also the ones who take pride in bettering our industry by providing a superior experience to every end-user. These owners often evolve into successful multi-store owners down the road.”

For Kelly, it’s a responsibility to help change the image of the industry.

“Many people still view Laundromats as (if) they were 20, 30, or 40 years ago: old, dirty stores with beat-up and broken equipment,” he says. “These days, consumers demand more value-added amenities, and store owners go to great efforts to make their customers feel welcome and comfortable. It is important for all store owners to keep their store aesthetically pleasing and have reliable, efficient equipment to enhance the customer experience and continue improving the image of the industry.”

Regan urges store owners to continue to raise the bar on their laundry and the services it provides.

“As part of a community, a successful, attractive and safe laundry is a benefit to any community,” he says. “It also provides a positive outlook to someone else who is thinking about starting their own business,” which in turn will provide continued growth for manufacturers, distributors and service providers.

In the end, Wallace summed things up quite nicely: “Better operators with better stores, along with more efficient machines and new technology, spell an even brighter future for this industry.”  

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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