A common refrain in the coin operated laundry business is that it is “recession proof” – a perception that has long attracted entrepreneurs and investors. There will always be a need for clean clothes and linens which is why most laundromat owners agree that the business is fairly impervious to outside world and economic events.
However, the most recent recession of 2006-2009 was different, negatively affecting the coin laundry business fairly profoundly. The combination of an oversupply of stores built in certain regions of the U.S. during the earlier boom times, and the downturn in the local population, as people moved elsewhere in search of jobs, caused many stores to close their doors.
These days, the industry outlook is much better. In the course of the past few years, many new stores are being built while others are being upgraded and re-equipped with the latest laundry machines. While the pace of construction and remodeling isn’t what it once was, pre-recession, it is definitely on the upswing.
The coin laundry business continues to attract interest from a wide variety of prospective owners. In addition to the potentially big return on their investment, the prospect of being self-employed in a relatively low stress environment, coupled with the casual lifestyle and flexible hours is very appealing to a lot of people.
Coin laundry operators come from many walks of life with different expectations about what they hope to gain from these businesses. Many only own one or maybe two stores, while others own multiple stores, with some scattered across state lines. In recent years, a number of immigrants have invested in the business in order to get a visa.
A New Breed of Owner?
While some of these stores look the same as they did 20 years ago, it is evident that the business is changing. Some changes are obvious and have been happening slowly over the last several years. For example, many operators have renovated their stores to make them more appealing, integrating such user-friendly features such as coinless payment systems (cards) and free Wi-Fi. There has also been a definite trend to install larger, more energy efficient washers and dryers
The other big change we see is that the business is attracting a new breed of owner: people whose main focus is return on investment. This new type of owner is distinct from the entry-level entrepreneurs who have traditionally bought these laundries, in that they are established and successful business people who have figured out that there is large potential profit in the coin laundry business.
These new owners include people who have means but may be looking to supplement their income with a business that doesn’t require day-to-day hands on management. A couple of common examples are recent retirees who still need something to do and escapees from corporate life.
One thing these new owners understand is that in order to make money, they have to invest money and they are not afraid to do that. They understand that modern and attractive amenities as well as state-of-the-art laundry equipment are key to attracting and retaining customers.
What’s fast becoming normal is beautiful polished concrete or porcelain tile floors, high open ceilings with large fans and more comfortable seating. Many new laundromats include device charging areas and workstations, free Wi-Fi, an elaborate choice of vending machines and/or kiosks, play areas for children, more interesting and up to date color schemes and other beautiful design features. This new breed of owner is creating coin laundries in which people truly don’t mind hanging out. Many of these new stores make you feel like you are in a chic coffee house while you are doing your laundry.
These new owners are also taking customer service to a new level. Though there are still plenty of self-service laundries, it seems that more and more are turning into attended stores, particularly as card payment systems become more ubiquitous.
In addition, owners are recognizing that competition is growing and a way to beat the competition is with better customer service. As with any business, customer service pays off, no matter who your customer is.
Top notch amenities and superior customer service won’t ensure success in the coin-op laundry business without top notch equipment. Not only do the commercial coin op washers and dryers need to be attractive, easy-to-use and reliable for optimal day-to-day operations, they need to last over the long term. The right laundry equipment, properly taken care of, will last 15-20 years.
The Importance of High Quality, Uniform Laundry Equipment
It is important to have a store where all of the equipment is from the same manufacturer; otherwise, customers can get confused as each manufacturer has different controls, and in some cases, results. A shop with machines from different manufacturers simply doesn’t look as good as one that has uniform-looking equipment. Modern owners recognize that saving ‘a buck’ by installing whichever equipment is the cheapest is not the best way to make money in the long term.
This new crop of owners has an understanding of long term value and is willing to pay a bit more to achieve that value. A quality piece of machinery will cost more upfront but they know if you own the equipment for 15-20 years and it looks better longer, works better, is more reliable and lasts, then it makes sense to pay a little more up front.
This is one of the reasons Dexter Laundry equipment continues to grow and be the leader in the coin laundry industry. Dexter’s market dominance is a result of its reputation for superior performance, energy efficiency and durability in the marketplace. Dexter laundry equipment is also attractive and has user-friendly features that make it a favorite among coin-op customers.
Why is a Dexter Washer or Dryer Different?
- American made Dexter Laundry is 100% employee owned. All employees have a great interest in producing the best product possible.
Washer bearings and shafts are larger, the seal design superior and the frame and bearing housings are heavier. This is why they provide a 10 year warranty on these items.
- The stainless steel used on panels is “304”, which is 20% thicker than the stainless steel most of the competitors use. The side panels on a Dexter washer are also stainless steel (standard).
- Grooves are machined into the pulley for more belt stability.
- Dexter’s front panel is in two parts. You can remove the bottom panel to access drain valve by simply loosening two screws. Many manufacturers have a single front panel where you have to remove 6 or more screws.
- Dexter’s 50-90 pound washers have the soap dish in the front for easy access. The smaller machines have the soap dish on top and the soap dish door, once opened, remains opened. Competitors have soap dish on the top on all washers and the soap dish door has to be held open.
- Dexter has an emergency stop button on all washers. No one else has this.This was developed so that a person can stop the machine in case of an emergency (water flooding out or a person, yes a person, stuck inside washer) or if the customer forgot to add a piece of clothing to the load.
- The 1000 hour test. With an out of balance load Dexter runs each new washer model and its highest spin rate for 1000 hours (42 days). If any component fails they go back to the drawing board.
- Dexter Dryers move more air, have higher BTU’s input to reach set temperature faster and the cylinders are fully perforated.
- Dexter Dryers are fully welded and electrostatically painted inside and out.
- Dryers feature metal bladed impeller with cast iron hubs for maximum life
- Dexter equipment can be programmed via the internet in the cloud using a thumb drive or all equipment can be networked and programmed or controlled live from your smartphone or tablet.
- Dexter makes their own washers and dryers in their factory for Dexter only. You will find that much of the equipment on the market is made by a couple of manufacturers for a variety of brand names.
Given our long experience helping clients succeed in the commercial coin-op laundry business, we find these changes interesting and exciting to watch. It’s always fun to see innovation and improvement. The message here that we hope current or future laundry owners will hear is that providing an appealing environment with quality laundry machines along with great customer service is the key to success in this competitive era.