CHICAGO — It’s been a battle: the self-service laundry industry vs. the recession. Some might also dub it the recession-resistant industry vs. the recession. Whatever you want to call it, it’s clear that the recession has impacted the industry.
While I thought this year’s survey story would be dominated by the economic data, there were other aspects of the survey that caught my attention. You may be surprised at what operators had to say about a variety of subjects.
American Coin-Op’s annual State of the Industry survey focuses on 2009/2010 business conditions, pricing, equipment, common problems, turns per day and expenses. In addition, for the first time, we look at utilities cost as a percentage of gross revenue.
The State of the Industry survey is a random, unscientific electronic mail poll of American Coin-Op readers who operate stores.
We asked respondents about their current washer prices, and if they raised prices this year or planned on doing so by the end of the year.
Eighty-six percent of respondents offer top loaders. The price for a top-load wash ranges from $1 to $2.75, the same as last year.
Here are the most popular top-load prices, followed by the percentages of respondents using them:
1) $1.75 (34.4 percent)
2) $2 (22.9 percent)
3) $2.50 (13.1 percent)
4) $2.25 (11.4 percent)
5) $1.50 (9.8 percent)
The biggest change with top-loader pricing is that last year’s No. 1 price ($1.50) fell to No. 5 this year. Also, the $2.50 price didn’t make the top-five prices last year.
The most popular prices for some of the small front loaders are:
• 18-pound washer: $2.50 and $3 (tie)
• 20-pound washer: $2.25
• 25-pound washer: $3.50
The lowest price in the above grouping is $1.50 (18-pound washer), and the highest price is $4.50 (20-pound washer).
The price range for a 30-pound washer is $2.50 to $6.50. Here are the most popular 30-pound prices, along with the percentages of respondents using them:
1) $3.50 (26.4 percent)
2) $3 (20.5 percent)
3) $4 (17.6 percent)
4) $3.25 (11.7 percent)
Last year’s most popular 30-pound washer price was $3.25. In 2010, $3.25 dropped to fourth place. Also, $3.50 was the third-most-popular price in 2009. It jumped to the No. 1 price this year.
The most popular price for a 35-pound washer is $3.50, followed by $4.25 and $4. The price range for a 35-pound washer is $3 to $5.50.
The trend toward larger front loaders seems to be continuing based on the number of responses we received about these units. The most popular price for a 40-pound washer is $4.50, followed closely by $4.
There’s a wide price range ($4 to $8.50) when it comes to 50-pound washers. Seventeen percent of the respondents charge $5 for a 50-pound washer. There is a near tie for the No. 2 most-popular price, including $6.50, $6, $5.50 and $5.25. In this category, more so than any other washer category, respondents are divided on what they charge.
Six dollars is the most popular price for a 60-pound wash. In the 75-pound-washer category, the prices vary from $5 to $9.60. The same is also true for the 80-pound washers; prices range from $6 to $9. The most popular price for an 80-pound washer is $8, followed by $9.
What’s changed since last year? In 2009, some of the most popular prices were a bit lower than 2008 prices. That seems to have been corrected this year. The 2010 most popular prices, in many cases, have increased when compared to 2009 prices. Are operators finally going with the flow when it comes to pricing?
Dryer pricing always seems to be somewhat frustrating for owners, based on survey comments. Some believe higher dryer prices leave customers in a bad mood as they exit the store. Respondent comments also reveal that a good number of the 2009-2010 winter gas bills were lower than the prior winter.
Here are the most popular dryer prices, followed by the percentage of respondents using them:
1) 25 cents/6 minutes (35.7 percent)
2) 25 cents/8 minutes (15.4 percent)
3) 25 cents/5 minutes (10.7 percent, tie)
3) 25 cents/7 minutes (10.7 percent, tie)
5) 25 cents/7.5 minutes (4.7 percent)
The biggest change from last year is that the No. 1 choice (25 cents/6 minutes) has opened up a substantial lead over the No. 2 price. Last year, 25 cents/6 minutes and 25 cents/8 minutes shared the No. 1 spot.
The wide variety of dryer prices also caught my eye. Dryer prices included $1.25/32 minutes; 40 cents/10 minutes; $1/18 minutes; and 90 cents/20 minutes. No respondents offer free dry.
Drop-off-service pricing ranges from 75 cents to $2 per pound. Here are the most popular drop-off-service prices, followed by the percentage of respondents using them:
1) $1 (37.2 percent)
2) $1.25 (11.6 percent)
3) $1.20 (9.3 percent, tie)
3) $1.10 (9.3 percent, tie)
Fifty-six percent of respondents offer this service.
To read Part I of this story, click here.
Check back next Friday for Part III of this story.