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Year-End Roundtable: Improving the Industry (Part 3)

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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

LOW COST … OR NO COST?

A small-business owner may be reluctant to invest in certain improvements because of their cost, so we asked the experts to suggest some low-cost or no-cost ways that the average store owner might improve the operation.

“If a store owner is unable to purchase new equipment, a cosmetic makeover is a great option to improve the store,” says Kelly. “Changing the paint color, a thorough cleaning, or offering a customer loyalty program are great, low-cost ways for a store owner to improve his or her operation. Any of these simple changes show customers that the store owner cares about the business and wants to create a positive customer experience.”

“Fresh paint and a new drop ceiling are two easy ways to make a store look better with very little costs involved,” says Fleck. “High-efficiency fans and lighting can also improve the look and feel of a Laundromat.”

And don’t forget about maintenance and machine upkeep. “Owners should always have their attendants keep machines clean and keep up with repairs. Operators can also save money on basic repairs by attending factory repair training schools through their equipment’s manufacturer or distributor.”

“Customer service is of ultimate importance,” Brick says. “If the store is attended, request employees keep up the store’s appearance by wiping down equipment at least once an hour, keeping the floor clean, and greeting and assisting customers.”

Other options, according to Brick, include offering low-cost promotions such as a “free wash” card or “bring a friend, get a free wash.”

“One way to make your business better is to look at your employees,” advises Wallace. “Providing more training doesn’t cost more than your time and can yield improved results. When was the last time your people received a ‘refresher’ on how to take care of customers? On safety procedures? Or, on the right way to keep the store clean?”

Another cost-neutral approach, Wallace says, would be to replace an under-performing employee with someone new who may be able to do a better job for you at the same wage.

HELPING HAND

So, how can manufacturers and distributors best help coin laundry owners succeed?

“Manufacturers and distributors have a responsibility to laundry owners to provide quality service,” Regan says. “The sale of new equipment on the front end is what establishes a manufacturer/distributor/laundry owner relationship. However, maintaining a strong after-market support system keeps these relationships strong and helps perpetuate a healthy business for the laundry owners.”

They can assist “by providing the proper mix of energy-efficient equipment based on demographics and competition,” says Olsen.

“Our best efforts can help owners recognize efficiencies through the machinery we provide,” Gauthier says. “Our equipment can’t lower lease costs but we can help vended laundries be successful and profitable in reselling utilities — water, gas and electricity — to their customers.”

“As manufacturers, we have a duty to provide store owners with durable equipment that has a long life and yields few complications,” says Fleck. “Secondly, the equipment needs to be efficient enough to provide owners with savings so they’ll see the worth in replacing older equipment. Last but not least, the machines must be simple to operate while featuring advanced control systems to provide customers and store owners with added value.”

Distributors must represent the best brands, be able to provide service and parts for those brands, and be the local experts on the who, what, why and where of the market, he adds.

“The best manufacturers and distributors are those that treat the store owner like a true partner,” says Kelly. “Offering services ranging from site analytics, to technical support, to helping understand the cost per cycle and industry trends is what sets good distributors and manufacturers apart.

“Each store owner is different and has his or her own unique set of needs, so choosing the right partner is an essential key to profitability.”

“The best manufacturers and distributors innovate, take great care of the customer and reinvest in the future,” Wallace says. “These are just a few of the lessons through example that can guide and inspire laundry owners to achieve more.”

Check back Monday for the conclusion!

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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