The carwash spin cycle
Like carwashes, Landromats have withstood the test of time. Believed to have been introduced in the United States in 1936 by a man named Noah Brannen, the coin laundry business has flourished throughout America.
According to Brian R. Wallace, president and CEO of the Coin Laundry® Association, despite a challenging economy, most laundries have performed well.
“The exceptions have been stores located in areas that have seen significant negative demographic shifts as a result of the recession,” Wallace explained. “If a neighborhood has lost population, then laundry sales are down. If the neighborhood has remained stable, so have sales at the local Laundromat. Fortunately, laundry is a basic need that consumers must meet in good times and in bad.”
The obvious juxtaposition between a carwash and a Laundromat is that they both involve making things clean. But, another key advantage lies in the fact that there is a lot of downtime between the clothes washing and drying cycles which could be an opportune time for someone to get their car cleaned as well.
Read the label
If you’re a carwash owner thinking of adding on a Laundromat, there are a few things you need to do beforehand. As Wallace pointed out, just like with any potential business endeavor, it pays to do your homework.
“The Coin Laundry Association offers many educational and consultative benefits for those thinking about getting into the laundry business,” Wallace offered. “In my experience, potential laundry owners who have previously operated other small businesses — like carwashes — hold a significant advantage over first-time laundry owners who don’t have that real-world experience.”
Carolyne Johnson is president and CEO of ALJ Electronics, Inc., a company that manufactures, repairs and refurbishes the electronic controls, motor boards and inverter drives of the laundry and dry cleaning manufacturers in the industry. Johnson said to be sure to research and understand the demographic of the potential customers.
“Scope out the competition and make sure the location is suitable,” she suggested. “Consult with local dealers for advice on the project. And attend the Clean Show in Las Vegas next June 2011, which is the largest laundry industry trade show.”
Choose the setting
According to Steve Hietpas, national sales manager for Maytag® Commercial Laundry, when it comes to selecting laundry equipment, owners should — above all else — choose equipment that is long-lasting, durable, dependable and easy to operate and maintain.
“It’s important for owners to invest in the most energy-efficient equipment possible,” he said. “This can lead to significant utility cost savings over time, and it sends the message to customers that they can feel good about using the equipment.”
In the housing industry it’s been said that if you’re not building green right now, you’re not building, Hietpas added. “The laundry industry is seeing a similar trend as on-premises owners are looking for value, not just the lowest price. Now more than ever people really understand the value of energy savings,” he said.
“Utility costs are not projected to decrease and they make up an enormous portion of ongoing operating expenses. By selecting today’s water-efficient laundry equipment, carwash owners can conserve water and energy, reduce utility expenses, save labor, raise productivity and increase customer satisfaction.”
Select the right equipment
New technology has driven improvements in basic equipment like washers, dryers and water heaters, according to Wallace. “Today’s washers and dryers are also much more programmable than in years past which deliver pricing and marketing options along with the utility savings.”
Wallace also said they are seeing increased popularity among card systems, credit card acceptance, and other alternative payment systems.
Along with higher efficiency, Johnson said manufacturers have been also focusing on making washers and dryers more simpler to use, stronger, easier to maintain, and more attractive
“Technological advancements in electronics are allowing controls to be fully programmable using wireless mobile devices and internet based controls which allow store owners to monitor equipment usage, audit features and special pricing access from remote locations,” she said.
Handle with care
Like any business, the premises of a Laundromat also have to be extremely user-friendly and clean. Customers will be turned off if a place that’s supposed to make your clothes clean is littered with clutter or dirt.
Johnson said that while some run-down Laundromats end up closing, the ones that are thriving are clean, well-kept and priced competitively.
Owners, Hietpas said, should make the Laundromats more accessible to customers by offering drop-off services, extending hours and always having a helpful attendant working. Also, he added, “aesthetics, such as updated lighting, flooring and interior upgrades, can also make a big impact.”
It’s also important adapt to the changing times. The days of carrying around and saving up your quarters are over. “We are seeing increased popularity among card systems, credit card acceptance, and other alternative payment systems,” Wallace said.
Amy Olberding is the manager of Z Wash Haus, a Laundromat, carwash and tanning salon multi-profit center in New Bremen, OH. She said keeping all of the businesses clean is one of their top priorities.
“Also,” she added, “good customer service is important.” Olberding said they have security cameras watching all of the profit centers and have an employee monitor all three during operating hours.
The carwash is open 24 hours, but the Laundromat and tanning salon are not. “ A description on the New Bremen Economic Development website states, “When you come to Z’Wash Haus you’ll find a clean, smoke free environment. And unlike some coin laundry facilities, you will find a staff person on hand. If you forget or run out of laundry supplies, Z’Wash Haus has them available for purchase.”