CHICAGO — There are three keys to building a strong coin laundry — location, layout and design, which includes your equipment mix. In this column, I’m going to explore an area that poses quite a challenge to many operators — determining a proper equipment mix.
Putting together the proper equipment mix requires a coin laundry operator to study three things — demographics, capacity and numbers. Once you get a handle on these things, you should be well on your way to establishing the ideal equipment mix and achieving success for your coin laundry.
When looking at demographics, it’s best to take a two-pronged approach. For existing storeowners, you aren’t looking to start over but rather to upgrade your equipment. Unlike a new storeowner, this is made easier for you because you already know who your customers are and what they like based on their machine usage. For example, if you have just one 80-pound washer-extractor and every Saturday during your peak period you find a line waiting to use it, that may be a sign from your customers that it’s time to make an equipment change.
Demographics also play a key role in determining equipment mix for new stores. Here’s a tip for you new storeowners: Learn the make-up of your potential customer base.
In the coin laundry industry, there are two types of customers. The first type of customer is the one who needs to visit a coin laundry because he/she has no laundry equipment at home. The second type of customer is best described as a non-dedicated user. This type of customer might come in once a month, every two months or even once a year to wash either large items such as comforters that won’t fit in a home washer or items that are too dirty to wash at home, such as hunting gear or athletic uniforms.
When establishing your equipment mix, it’s important that you keep in mind that the bulk of your customers are dedicated users and that you need to tailor your mix to this group.
GETTING THE RIGHT CAPACITY
There are only a few things that you can do to increase your volume in an existing laundry. The easiest and most effective way to deal with this situation is to increase your washer and dryer capacity. Installing larger washer-extractors is certainly a growing trend in the modern coin laundry.
In the locations where most of today’s new coin laundries are being constructed, it’s much more important to maximize your capacity. It’s a simple concept; you want to take into consideration the number of people that will come into your store and you want enough machines and capacity to service these people at that time.
Think about it this way. If customers want to do their laundry at 10 a.m. on Saturday or 10 a.m. on Sunday, which in our business is peak time industry-wide, the way to get the customers into your laundry is to have more capacity than the laundry down the street.
To achieve the right capacity, take a look at your competition’s equipment mix and figure out what you should be offering; choose equipment that the competition is lacking.
Although not your primary audience, when you go to larger machines your universe for potential customers expands to more than just renters. The appeal of the larger washer-extractor is that it can handle things you can’t do at home — comforters, blankets, etc.
Also, if you are adding larger washer-extractors, keep in mind that as you increase the capacity of your washers you also need to increase the capacity of your dryers. (A simple concept but one that may get lost.) When you add a couple of hundred pounds of washing capacity you will easily find yourself short on dryer capacity.
Pay close attention to your demographics when putting in large washer-extractors. It is important to keep an efficient equipment balance if you want to keep all of your customers happy.
BREAKING DOWN THE NUMBERS
Operating a laundry is a business and ultimately your equipment mix should come down to the numbers. The ability to put in the right size store in the right location is accomplished by looking at the demographics and trying to figure out if the demographics warrant as many large pieces of equipment (capacity) that your fixed costs warrant.
Coin laundries make their money during peak periods. If you decide to utilize two 80-pound washer-extractors instead of five smaller washers, one turn of the two 80-pound washer-extractors during a peak period puts you ahead of the game not only in the money they bring in, but also in utility usage and most importantly, in the space they take up.
To maximize your profits, it really comes down to your cost per square foot and what your income per square foot is. Research shows that the average family spends approximately $10 during a coin laundry visit. The coin laundry that can help them spend that $10 in the smallest amount of linear square footage has the capability to do more business than anyone else. And in our business, it’s all about the number of turns.
For example, if you have four top loaders that take up eight feet with a real vend price of $1.25 each (for a total of $5 in linear footage) and replaced them with two 80-pound washer-extractors with a vend price of $7 each, you are now doing $14 in the same linear footage. This is how an operator is able to increase the capacity and profitability in the same square footage.
Whether you’re an existing storeowner or building your first coin laundry, your equipment mix will play a large role in attracting and maintaining customers. As such, it’s important to keep up with what’s new in the industry. As manufacturers are developing and launching new equipment lines to meet the growing demand for new products and increased capacity, look in the new product sections of trade publications and stay in contact with your distributor. In addition, don’t forget to do your homework — attend the large industry trade shows or the smaller distributor shows. After all, if you don’t keep updated, your competitor will!