Neglect Your Store’s Signage at Your Own Risk
Because a laundromat is a self-service business, there is the tendency among some owners to have a “build-it-and-they-will-wash” attitude toward their stores.
In other words, the focus is primarily on the equipment offered in the facility, with little thought given to the overall retail experience – and, unfortunately, a critical aspect of that overall experience, which often gets overlooked, is signage.
Why is Store Signage Important?
From a big picture, store signage sets the tone for your facility and is a key component of your store’s overall marketing efforts. Good signage enhances the look and image of your laundry and becomes part of your store brand. Furthermore, good store signage conveys to your customers your desire to provide them with a pleasant experience and that you value their business.
You should think of your signage as an extension of yourself. In an attended laundry, you or your attendant cannot always assist every person, particularly during peak hours. If you are unattended, it is even more critical that you have strong signage, as it is typically the only means of directly communicating with your customers. Moreover, properly placed signage will play a role in running an efficient, successful operation.
‘People Don’t Read Signs’
This is an opinion that you may hear from some laundry owners. However, in reality, virtually every retailer in the world uses extensive signage within their stores. Retailers recognize the importance of signage in helping them reach their maximum operational and sales performance targets.
Although there certainly are those who don’t read signs, that’s no reason for the majority of self-service laundries to have signs that are outdated or worse – nonexistent. As an owner, it’s important that you establish a program that will provide your signage the greatest potential of being noticed, read and understood. Of course, bilingual signs can be a real plus in this regard.
Analyze the Repercussions Before Installation
There are some common signage mistakes that are frequently found in self-service laundries. For instance, it’s somewhat common to see the fronts of washers and bulkhead areas plastered with handwritten notes. This conveys an unprofessional image and can diminish the appeal of your facility.
Before you react to every problem that occurs in the operation of your machines by hastily taping up another rule, further analysis is required. Self-service laundry owners face a variety of problems that potentially require communication to help combat improper behavior or improper equipment operation. No one knows your store issues and customer base as well as you do. However, chiding your customers is probably not the best way to attempt to alleviate the problem. A store owner should always take into account the problem that he or she is looking to alleviate via stern store sign messaging. This can help to avoid negative fallout from customers as a result of posting the specific message.
The Basics of Good Store Signage
To create the most effective self-service laundry signs, some general rules apply. They include:
• Less is better. Too many signs clutter the store and weaken the ability for individual signs and messages to be noticed and read.
• Signage should be concise, bright and eye-catching. The use of bright colors helps to achieve this and also will make it more difficult for the customer to assert “I didn’t see the sign,” if there is a problem.
• Signs are usually more effective and contribute to your overall brand when professionally produced and printed. Avoid most handwritten messages, as they come across as amateurish and ineffective. Of course, there are exceptions, but it takes a creative touch to effectively pull it off.
• Don’t ignore the importance of sign placement, particularly when hanging signs from the ceiling. As laundry owners know, your customer values a well-lit, safe environment. When hanging signs, be sure they are hung high enough so as not to interfere with the customers’ field of vision to protect the open store feel. In addition, make sure that signs placed on top of bulkheads are not so large as to create a closed-in feeling for your customers.
• Good signage is generally consistent and somewhat uniform. You should have a logo, and use it as much as possible on signs to further promote your brand. It is best if your color scheme is fairly consistent on all signage so that it stands together as a whole and fits with your store’s décor.
Types of Signs to Use
Beyond the basics of good signage, these are some categories of signs that, properly done, will assist you in running a more efficient operation:
Laundromat Operating Guidelines: Because of the self-service nature of laundromats, every store, at a minimum, should diplomatically state what customers should and should not do while using the facility. Areas that would be appropriate on this sign would be things such as the safe use of laundry carts, asking people not to sit on folding tables and, in the case of an unattended facility, an emergency contact number.
Instructional Signage: Though most manufacturers have instructions as to how to operate the washers, many owners like to further emphasize certain aspects of the usage of the machine. The best location for these instructions is on well-placed, adhesive stickers on the front of the machine itself or small signs on the top of the bulk head. Common messages, for example, are: “Do Not Overload the Machines” and “Do Not Leave Articles in the Machines Unattended.” Good instructional signage helps to prevent machine misuse.
Directional Load Signs: Although many machines have load sizes indicated on the machine, they aren’t always prominently featured. Load capacities can be more prominently displayed by hanging ceiling signs or adhesive stickers on the front of the washers. Signage that directs customers to the appropriate machines to match their loads benefits the customers as well as the laundry owner.
Thank You: Don’t forget to genuinely thank your customers for their business as often as possible in your signage. Making your customers feel appreciated will reinforce your store and your brand in their minds for the next time they need to do laundry.
It’s not all that unusual to see illuminated signs on the outside of self-service laundries that have been left untouched for decades. Countless laundry facilities are identified only by “Laundromat” or “Coin Laundry” on these signs. Many of these stores have been retooled and refurbished; however, the exterior signs convey a 1960s image that in no way reflects the reality of how the facility now looks and is equipped. Although replacing illuminated signs is not inexpensive, it can go a long way toward informing the public that the facility in question is not your grandmother’s laundromat and convincing them to venture inside.
As with interior signs that are suspended too low from the ceiling, signs that take up large of portions of the glass storefront windows can obstruct your customers’ vision looking out toward the front of the store – and impact their sense of safety. Cling-style window signs should be small and as transparent as possible so that people can easily see in and out of your facility. If large signage is placed along your storefront windows, it should be installed at the very top of the window, so as not to obstruct visibility.
Unlike most retail businesses, self-service laundries, for the most part, are individually owned and not part of large chain operations. Retail chains continually improve their stores, which in turn raises customer expectations of the businesses. Laundry owners need to follow that lead, by providing an environment that meets the needs of their customers. Not only does this include updated, state-of-the-art equipment, but an attractive setting with a modern look – and that is where signage can play a key role.