What does it take to launch your successful coin-op laundromat? While there’s a lot to learn about the business, we’ve condensed what you need to know down into this quick overview we call Laundromat 101.
Setting Up Shop
Building a strong foundation for your coin-op laundry starts here. The right decisions early on can improve your results further down the line.
Take a look through our Setting Up Shop guide for helpful information and expert tips.
As with any brick and mortar storefront, the location of your coin-op laundromat is key to its success. According to the Coin Laundry Association, coin-op laundromats in predominantly renter-occupied, densely populated areas tend to perform exceptionally well. Targeting the correct market with easy access is a necessary first step in planning the future of your business. Whether you already own or are shopping for a space, take the time to consider the demographics of the area’s population density, population mix and population income. Additional factors, like accessibility to your market, should also be considered. Stores within walking distance to your market, along public transportation routes or with adequate parking for more suburban and rural areas can help improve your traffic.
Tip: “Is this store in an area that will support a Laundromat? A neighborhood that has many apartments or renters, multiple people per household and income below $35,000 is one example of a good neighborhood for a Laundromat.” —Stever Erlinger, WSD
A number of factors go into determining the value of a laundromat. According to the Coin Laundry Association, laundries are often sold for three to five times the value of their net earnings. This is determined by net earnings before debt service, the terms and conditions of the real estate interest, the age, condition and utilization of the equipment and property, marketplace conditions, the demographic profile of the area and replacement cost and land usage issues.
Thanks to the long success of the industry and continued research and development, you’ll have many choices when selecting your coin-op laundry equipment. From low-tech to high-tech, there is a machine for every situation. With Dexter’s Express line of washers and dryers, a customer can complete one turn (a wash and dry cycle) in under an hour, allowing for more customers to use fewer machines throughout the day. Maintenance can also be a factor when choosing equipment, so work with your distributor to choose the best coin-op machines for your business.
Own vs. Lease
While owning your store is often preferable, in some instances leasing a property is the better alternative, or the only opportunity. Owning a property is preferred by many, as it allows you to renovate and expand as needed and puts the cost of ownership up front. WSD’s 30 years of experience in the coin-op laundry industry can be a great asset in helping you locate and negotiate for the perfect property.
Tip: “It will take several years to pay back your investment so make sure that many years are left on a lease or that you have the ability to get a new long term lease. Additionally, and obviously, you want it as low as possible. Gross revenue is a factor, and if it’s high there is some wiggle room, but you want it at or below 25% of your gross revenue.” – Stever Erlinger, WSD
You should let your market determine the size of your retail space. If you are in a densely populated, renter occupied neighborhood that is underserved by coin-op laundry services, you can expect a higher demand and plan for a larger space to fit more machines. For lower demand, you should conserve your resources and plan to meet your customers’ needs with fewer machines. You can further cut down on the number of machines needed, and space needed, thanks to improved technology in washers and dryers.
Whether you’re buying an existing coin-op laundromat or building your own from the ground up, you’ll of course want to stretch your investment as far as it will go, without sacrificing the quality of your service or equipment. Once you’ve secured a competitive location, you’ll want to choose coin-op equipment that will maximize your investment and satisfy your customers’ needs. Dexter’s Express line of washers cut energy and water usage, therefore lowering operational costs, and speed up the time it takes your customers to finish a load of laundry, improving the customer experience. Making smart, planned decisions along each step of the way in your investment will help you increase your returns in the long run.
When leasing a space there are a number of factors that apply to the lease negotiation process. If the rental market is hot, or you’re looking for a unique space, you may have less bargaining power than a cold market, or flexibility in your search. Bryan Maxwell of WSD suggests “clearly defining your needs, understanding market forces and finding common ground on the details”, before starting your search.
Tip: “Landlords, particularly those with multiple properties, are generally sophisticated and, when negotiating a long-term lease, will negotiate to maximize income and security.” —Myles Mattenson, CA Based Attorney with extensive experience working with coin-op laundromat owners
Running the Store
When you’ve decided on your space and equipment, you’ll need to optimize the operation of your store. From maintenance to marketing and everything in between, how you operate your store will be the key to its profitability and longevity. Explore our guide on Running the Store for a great overview and expert tips.
Clean, Bright, Safe
Along with maintenance of your equipment, a properly maintained and cared-for store is important to the happiness of your customers and your long-term success. A clean, bright and safe store will invite in new business while insuring your customers prefer your store over others.
Coin-op laundromats are a unique business since they do not require inventory or receivables, limiting labor operations to three categories: Janitorial, Maintenance and Money Handling. Thanks to improved technologies in maintenance and the use of card systems in place of coins, maintenance and money handling labor can be greatly reduced. Often coin-op laundromats operate with as few as one or two employees. When a card system is involved, those employees may not even need to be present at the store full time, only tending to the janitorial needs at the beginning and end of the day.
In any business there is room for improvement and addressing those improvements will help ensure your success. From improving machine performance, to increasing your services to your customers, there are little and big steps you can take to improve your laundromat. Take the time to talk to your customers, offer a small prize for a survey, or simply encourage comments. The more you know about what your customers want, the better you can address their needs and increase the amount of money they spend with you.
As with any customer-oriented business, a successful coin-op laundromat depends on quality customer service. This begins with the proper, well lit, clean and safe space with machines that satisfy the customer’s needs, and continues through the day to day operations and friendly interactions with the customers. Many coin-op laundromats further their commitment to their customer by offering amenities as simple as snacks and free wifi, or going as far as pairing the laundry business with other customer service-oriented businesses like a café or restaurant.
When you own a small business, you tend to wear a lot, if not all, of the hats. Marketing is one of those hats that is key to the success of your laundromat. From the initial brand of your store (which goes beyond the name to include your services, location and details), to print and digital advertising and communications, to promotional offers, there are nearly endless ways to interact with your current and prospective customers and draw new and repeated business to your store.
Tip: Whether you’re an experienced marketer or just getting your feet wet, you’ll find a wealth of resources through a qualified distributor like WSD and through the industry’s trade organization, the Coin Laundry Association.
An out-of-service machine is not working to serve your customers or make you money, and is nothing more than a large paperweight. While proper maintenance can ensure functioning equipment, a washer or dryer will occasionally encounter problems that will require a fix. Often these fixes can be accomplished by following the product manual, ordering a quickly-delivered part, or for major repairs, a technician can be hired. When you work with a distributor like WSD, you have the extra guidance of people who work with these machines every day, and can help you with repairs or fixes over the phone, so your machines can get back to operating as they should and contributing to the satisfaction of your customers and your bottom line.
Machine performance can be accomplished manually, or through technologically advanced networked machines. A networked machine plus software can provide realtime updates and generate daily reports on individual machine performance or the performance of your store as a whole, all delivered to your desktop or iPad.
Still exploring ideas but have questions we haven’t answered? We are here to help.
1 on 1
Our Specialists will meet with you individually to walk you through
Free Video Seminar
Investment seminar lead by Coin Laundry Association President