There’s always room for improvement, so we asked manufacturers, distributors and operators to weigh in on ways to stimulate business. Sometimes, all it takes is a little fine-tuning to attract customers and increase profitability.
“Improving our industry from the operator’s level starts with getting newcomers into the store,” says Jay McDonald, vice president of product and brand management, Alliance Laundry Systems. “When you get someone who hasn’t been in a coin laundry in years to visit a modern location, it only helps us further the overall image of our industry.
“Each owner must take the lead in their market to promote coin laundries. This might be as simple as handing out discount referral cards to bring in new clients, or hosting gatherings for a local business group, service club or Chamber of Commerce socials. Owners also could offer up space during slow times to hold educational sessions on senior [citizens] topics or social services.
“Our goal is to educate as many people as possible. When they see how clean and easy our stores are to use, there’s a great chance of them coming back as customers.”
To aid the industry, manufacturers need to produce efficient, user-friendly equipment, he says. “However, it’s also important for us to temper improved efficiency with our main goal, which is to effectively clean customers’ laundry.”
In addition, he believes manufacturers should serve as the store owners’ window to the coin laundry world, sharing — through websites and public relations activities — success stories, how-to articles and what’s working for other owners.
“By sharing these stories from outside owners’ local markets, the entire industry can benefit.”
McDonald has seen the industry image improve since he started in the business in the 1970s. “[The image] is definitely good, but not yet great. Media increasingly portrays vended laundries as fun, trendy environments — a substantial improvement over the image only a couple of decades earlier of cramped, untidy places you didn’t want to do your laundry at.”
There are always ways to get customers in and out of the store quicker. McDonald has seen a less-expensive hybrid of wash, dry and fold. Clients load the washers and start the cycles before an attendant dries and folds the loads before pickup. “While we know the time savings laundries present are attractive to customers, I think it’s also important that customers never feel rushed.”
McDonald believes that service can dictate success or failure. “Having someone on-site is very important; one who’s not only knowledgeable, but eager to assist clients.”
McDonald is optimistic about the future. “There are no overnight changes in this industry, but as older stores are remodeled and retooled, we continue to see positive boosts in how the public views vended laundries. We’re definitely going in the right direction, and owners should be proud of that.”
ALL ABOUT EFFICIENCY
Energy efficiency is the key, says Craig Kirchner, director of global commercial laundry, Maytag/Whirlpool.
“Manufacturers should provide energy-saving equipment, and continue to raise the bar for energy savings — it’s better for the environment and helps lower coin store owners’ utility costs,” Kirchner says.
In addition to lowering utility costs, energy-efficient equipment sends the message to customers that they can feel good about using the equipment, he adds.
“Owners of existing stores can also make a big impact with updated lighting, nice flooring, and repainting the interior.”
Kirchner has seen the emergence of a more sophisticated industry in the last few years, with larger stores and quantity and size of machines offered.
Kirchner also recommends always having an attendant on duty. “Whether someone needs instructions on how a machine works, or help with loading laundry in or out of the car, a helpful attendant can make customers feel comfortable and get them to come back.”
Getting customers in and out quickly involves using the right equipment, learning customer patterns and having an attendant on duty. For example, customers can finish their chore more quickly if someone educates them on how to properly use the equipment, he says.
With people always stretched for time, Kirchner sees even more services offered in the wash-and-fold area. “Perhaps this will include a service where attendants make house calls to pick up and deliver laundry, or even having an in-store tailor.”