Not that long ago, I had a competitor build a store right across the street from me. Literally, I could stand at the front door of my laundromat and throw a rock through his window.
(Just for the record, I didn’t.)
Fortunately, it takes a while to build a store from the ground up, so I knew it was coming months in advance. I also was lucky because I had recently upgraded my laundromat with new high-speed equipment. It was already a very nice store.
From there, I devised my game plan.
Do What You Know You Already Should Be Doing
I had updated the flooring in my laundry when I retooled. However, now with the knowledge of a new competitor looming, I also gave the store a fresh paint job and made sure everything at that store was looking clean and pretty, inside and out.
I also knew I needed to feature all of the amenities of a modern laundromat. At that point, I wasn’t yet offering credit card acceptance on my machines. So, I quickly upgraded, giving myself the ability to accept credit and debit cards, as well as coins. I made sure I was able to take my customers’ money any way they wanted to give it to me.
New competition will force you to step up your game with regard to everything from basic aesthetics to leading-edge industry practices. In other words, it compels you to do the stuff you know you’re supposed to be doing anyway.
Buy Back Former Customers
For customers who may have left to try out the new competitor, I had no problem with attempting to buy back their business. With a card system, you can clearly notice when a loyal customer disappears (and is likely at the laundry across the street).
Open up a line of communication with those individuals. Maybe let them know that you’ll give them $50 if they give you another try. Perhaps offer store loyalty credits. Be creative. Just buy them back!
After all, isn’t that the whole point of advertising? It’s about buying customers.
Don’t Race to the Bottom
Probably the worst tactic you can employ is to try to compete on price. That will hurt everybody, and it’s completely unnecessary.
If you have a modern store in a solid location with ample parking and quality amenities, decreasing your vend prices is not required. If your laundromat checks all of the boxes and is serving the community well, hold steady on pricing.
Yes, with a new competitor in your market, you may have to focus a bit more closely on your attendant training, the quality of your services and the overall atmosphere of your laundromat. But, again, shouldn’t you be doing that anyway?
Just don’t race to the bottom on price. Believe me… you don’t want to go there.
Set Yourself Apart by Doing Good
Lastly and by far the best thing I did to combat my new competitor was to differentiate my business by installing a Family Read, Play & Learn space in my store, which offers books and other learning materials for children who come to the laundromat. They’re available through The LaundryCares Foundation (www.laundrycares.com), and it absolutely set me apart and helped bring back any lost revenue.
Of course, I had to make sure that my RPL center was active. We have librarians in the store on a regular basis, reading to and engaging the kids. If you can’t find volunteer readers, consider hiring a retired teacher to come in once a week to read to the kids.
It shows the local community that your business is about more than just taking their money. It shows that you care. It’s an absolutely unique proposition, and it’s the best move I made in staving off competition.