The laundromat business has proven itself to be recession-resistant, pandemic-resistant – and, yes, “essential.”
As a result, the industry is growing at a rate at which I’ve never seen before.
People are fleeing corporate America to build or buy laundromats. Current operators are expanding their number of locations. Some equipment manufacturers are building and selling complete, turnkey store packages. And laundromat franchises are beginning to pop up.
What should you be doing to compete?
As a veteran operator, I consistently reinvest in my stores in the following areas: paint, flooring, laundry equipment, payment systems, interior and exterior signage, seating, folding tables, bulkhead covers, soap centers, vending options, employee uniforms, changers, LED lighting and more. I also highly recommend installing a LaundryCares’ Family Read, Play & Learn Center in your store to help set you apart from your competition.
A few bigger picture ideas would be purchasing new locations, selling a store to raise revenue, or expanding your business by acquiring a strip center with a vended laundry as a tenant.
Personally, we don’t offer wash-dry-fold services. However, this option certainly provides a number of opportunities to expand your business – such as creating a pickup/delivery service and adding commercial clients.
I understand that many of you aren’t in the position to do everything I’ve mentioned. However, what have you done?
When competition invades your market, it’s human nature to shrink up, tighten your belt and preserve capital, rather than to spend the money necessary to improve your laundromat and compete for the business.
Also, the prevailing attitude when competition comes to town is to assume that your “slice of the pie” will get smaller. But I disagree.
I believe “the pie” gets bigger and, thus, your piece can be larger than ever before. In fact, every time a new store is built near me, I’ve been able to stave off the financial hit and expand my operation – and I’ve ended up with a better store and happier customers.
For example, we had a brand new laundry open up directly across the street from one of our best stores. I’m sure many of you can imagine the initial heartache and anger I felt when I discovered that this new store was going to have the exact same equipment that we had just installed.
After a few weeks of being upset, I decided to take my store to the next level. We increased vend prices, added credit card acceptance, upgraded all of our lighting, repainted and so on. What’s more, we added a Family Read, Play & Learn Center and established a weekly reading program in that store. Next, we launched an aggressive marketing campaign.
When that new store finally opened, I lost approximately 20 percent of my gross sales for about two months. Then the business started coming back. And, within a year, I had reclaimed all of my original revenue, and I was more profitable as a result of the upgrades.
As our industry changes and matures, it’s easy to be fearful. However, I choose to see this time as a great opportunity to change the entire industry and to help make a weekly trip to the laundromat a normal way of life for the majority of people.
Too often, we forget that the biggest competition we face are not those new owners entering the industry these days, or even the washers and dryers in the local apartment complexes. Our biggest competition remains the washers and dryers in nearly every home across the country – washers and dryers that vend for free.
So, as this industry evolves and welcomes new investors, choose to have a positive attitude, choose to run an excellent business – and choose to compete!