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.
EMPLOYEES A MUST
“In general, if every store was attended, the whole industry would run better,” Peter Viglione, Coastline Laundry, Neptune, N.J., says. “The negative aspects of the industry are bred by not having owners present. Laundry standards should be high. Delegating leads to mediocrity.
“In my area, many stores are in disrepair, with few exceptions. Stores are old and neglected. The image of this industry needs to improve. The image can be improved, but every operator needs to pitch in.”
Strive for a comfortable store, he suggests. “I went to a Laundromat when I was younger, and was so uncomfortable that I stayed in my car while my clothes were being washed.
“The exterior has some importance, but once people get into the store, that’s when you win them over.”
Getting customers out of the store as quickly as possible is also important. “To [get customers out of the store quickly], everything needs to be running and you have to have the right balance of equipment. It helps to have an attendant oversee things. I have a sign that says if there is still clothing in the machine 10 minutes after [the cycle ends], the clothing will be removed and put in a labeled basket. This keeps the flow moving.”
Take a close look at your space, he advises. “Multi-functional stores will improve the industry. I think all the time about the next great service that can be offered. A little snack bar may be the way to go. Food and drink relate well to this industry.”
GET PEOPLE TO THE LAUNDRY
The more information operators gather, the better, says Dan Biggs, Steiner-Atlantic, Miami. “Distributors work hard trying to give local operators different ways to improve business.”
While some operators belong to associations, business groups, etc., and exchange ideas, others still have a “mom-and-pop” mentality that inhibits industry progress, Biggs believes.
“Some of the operators not involved in these organizations shoot from the hip at times, and just don’t understand the business. They may not even be making money.”
Looking to attract customers? “I’d recommend one thing. Since most people drive to the laundry, the owners of good stores should go to the local churches and promote giving rides to people to get to the store. If the operators set up a basic taxi service, that would bring people in.”
Operators can fine-tune their business by understanding the relationship between demographics and extra services. “If owners, for example, understood wash, dry and fold better, they could improve profitability.”
Operators also need to assess their collections, and see which machines are turning. Are some of the machines broken? Why aren’t customers using certain equipment? Getting the proper answers to these questions could help operators deal with utility issues, increase turns and even allow customers to finish their chore quicker, he believes.
As for branching out, “Coin laundries are very unique because of space demands, but the audience may be there for Internet service or little cafes. Little cafes work well [in the Miami area] because of the Latin community; maybe you would even want to offer pastry with the drinks. Remember, you want to make money, but you don’t want to get carried away.”