Looking Ahead to the Future of Laundromats
The coronavirus outbreak has significantly impacted all of our lives in some way or another. Some of us have witnessed the dangers of this virus first-hand and the very real health concerns it presents. Many others have lost their jobs and are struggling financially. This virus’ presence has been difficult for everyone.
For those of us in the laundromat industry, the spread of this virus has forced us to rethink our current way of doing things and, instead, anticipate what the new world will look like and how our business model can adapt.
Of course, trying to predict the future has always been a fool’s errand, and during these unprecedented times, it seems doubly so. But, as head of a company that has been around since the birth of the industry, one thing I can say is that laundromats are resilient. Whatever else is happening, people always need clean clothes.
A New Normal Will Come
I don’t want to minimize the economic suffering that many store owners are experiencing right now. Although laundromats have been allowed to continue serving their communities, revenues for many operators have dropped. A lot of laundries have lost commercial accounts from local restaurants, gyms and spas. Many others have seen revenue fall as a result of shelter in place orders in their localities. These are difficult times, but they won’t last forever. And, while this article is not about Laundrylux, I can tell you that we believe in and are fully committed to the future of vended laundry. At some point, we will all emerge into a new normal, and those stores that can best adapt to this new environment will be the ones to thrive.
So, although predicting the future is impossible, we can look to things that have already changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Since the emergence of COVID-19, we have become much more aware of our safety and the safety of others while we are out in the world – and most of us are leaving our homes as little as possible. This has seen us relying more and more on technology. Many of us have become familiar with food-delivery apps on our phones, and we are using video chat technology to stay connected with our family and friends. Perhaps we are going to our local supermarket less frequently, but we are buying more when we do go. So what does this mean for the future of the laundromat industry?
Customers Will Prioritize Safety and Hygiene
We have already seen how people have changed their hygiene habits. One thing’s for sure: where health and safety are concerned, more people are going to prioritize cleanliness. Customers who visit your laundromat will want to know that your equipment can fully sanitize their clothes. In order to reassure customers, you will want to put up in-store signage that lets customers know about the virus-killing benefits of your equipment, and your staff may want to learn a little about how viruses and bacteria are removed in the laundry process so that you can reassure nervous customers.
Although not everyone is looking to make equipment purchases right now, when the time does come to update your washers and dryers, it may be wise to look for equipment that is certified for hygiene and safety.
HACCP-certified laundry equipment delivers on infection control, a level of quality trusted by health care and military facilities – industries that require thorough, virus-killing equipment for sanitation and safety. High-grade commercial equipment has the power to kill viruses like coronavirus and other pathogens by reaching and maintaining extremely high-heat water. The World Health Organization found that most viruses and bacteria become inert at 140 degrees. However, at the higher 158-degree temperatures, which are reached by true commercial machines, 99.99 percent of harmful pathogens are removed in under a minute. By using washers and dryers that can reach and maintain these high temperatures, and by looking for extra features like drum-sanitizing rinse and custom antivirus wash cycles, you can be sure that your customers are in the safest hands possible.
How Do We Promote Safety Outside of the Drum?
Many retailers have had to rethink the customer experience, from the number of people allowed inside at a given time to the emergence of contactless payment technology. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, contactless options were already growing in popularity for their practicality. Now, it’s a matter of hygiene. I expect that we’ll see an increasing number of laundromats accepting smartphone payment.
With one QR code swipe, the user can activate the machine without having to touch it. Payment is deducted from the user’s profile, and he or she can safely avoid coming into contact with machines, thus reducing the chance of spreading viruses. This measure can protect both the people who rely on your services, as well as the staff who work at your laundromat. Smartphone payment apps are easily implemented and offer a safe alternative for everyone – with customers able to add funds to their app with their credit, debit or EBT cards. And, if your store still wants to allow customers to use cash, you can provide an on-site kiosk that enables customers to top-up accounts.
Of course, payment apps come with other benefits. Customers can be notified when their cycles are complete, meaning they don’t need to wait inside your store, and they also can see if your store has available machines before they leave home, so they won’t need to worry about waiting in a crowded space.
Rethinking the Laundromat Space
One thing that will never change, even during a recession: people are going to continue to need access to clean clothes. Laundromats provide an essential laundry service to millions of people across the country, and those people will continue to need access to top-quality commercial washers and dryers. While people will continue to need access to your store, the way they use your store may be different.
Just as people are going to the supermarket less frequently but buying more food when they do go, customers may visit your store less frequently but bring larger loads when they do come. Giving customers access to high-capacity machines allows them to do larger loads meaning they can wash all of their family’s laundry in one visit.
Customers with large families will want access to larger equipment, but nearly all customers can agree that they want to get their laundry done fast. With advanced high-spin and high-extraction technology, customers can get laundry washed and dried in about 40 minutes. This means convenience for the customers – and faster turnaround time for the laundry owners.
With government and health agency guidelines stressing the importance of keeping a safe, six-foot distance, many store owners may choose to free up space in their laundromats by selecting stack dryers, high-spin and high-capacity machines. This may lead to laundromats having fewer machines overall, but maintaining the ability to serve the same amount of customers and generate the same or even greater revenue overall.
Wash-Dry-Fold, Deliveries and the Future of Laundromats
If you want to give customers the option of using your machines without requiring them to spend time in your store, you may want to offer wash-dry-fold or even a laundry delivery service. These services offer the ultimate in convenience for your customers and allow you to keep your machines generating profit during off-peak hours. As more people become familiar with online deliveries, providing this option will enable your business to grow. We’ve even seen store owners offer curbside pickup, which eliminates the need for customers to enter your store.
These are unprecedented times, and it is understandable that many owners may be nervous about the future. But with the right tools and support, your laundromat can pull through – and prosper. Laundry manufacturers and distributors will do all that they can to help your business adapt to the new normal to come. Laundrylux will continue to work tirelessly to make sure our store owners can offer the best possible service to their customers and generate healthy profits long into the future.
Our country will get through this, and our industry will continue to stay resilient into the future, just like it always has since my grandfather opened his first Wascomat store more than 60 years ago.