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Vended Laundries: Why Dry Cleaners Want One (Conclusion)

Offering more services can protect cleaners from downturns

CHICAGO — During the economic and societal challenges we’re facing, many dry cleaners are looking for ways to increase their business and revenue by diversifying out of their traditional roles. One method some are using is to invest in vended laundry equipment and offer more services to their customers.

In Part 1 of this feature, we explored the vended laundry choices Maine’s Pratt Abbott Garment Care, based in Westbrook, Maine, Jim Massey’s Cleaners & Laundry, located in Montgomery, Alabama, and Michigan’s Sheldon Cleaners have made, and here, we’ll conclude by seeing what their choices might mean for their future.

MAXIMIZED MARKET PENETRATION

Vended laundries don’t just shine during pandemics. They are constant revenue generators that allow drycleaning operators to offer a complete cleaning package to customers. Moreover, vended laundries help spur new and additional drycleaning sales, while providing the space needed to offer wash/dry/fold service. It’s a smart combination, according to Pratt Abbott Owner David Machesney.

How smart? “We have 275,000 people in our market,” says Machesney. “It’s not big, so having both dry cleaning and vended allows Pratt Abbott to grab 75% of the drycleaning market and half the vended market.”

On the whole, vended laundries make the drycleaning stores more profitable — and vice versa. The pairing creates “one-stop-shop” customer convenience, according to Machesney. That’s important, he says, because Pratt Abbott is “in the business of selling time.”

That’s the same reason Sheldon Cleaners intends to open more Laundromats soon. “Our combo laundries and drycleaning stores will be flagship destinations where customers can enjoy multiple cleaning services, as well as benefiting from residential pickup and delivery,” says Sheldon Cleaners General Manager Jeff Engle.

THE ‘EXPRESS LAUNDRY’ IDEA

But, Engle and Machesney warn that it’s important to develop vended laundries that stand apart from the competition and offer unrivaled customer convenience. A good place to start, they agree, is with high-speed equipment.

During the last decade, Machesney has renovated several vended laundries to enjoy per-store revenue bumps of 10-30% and utility cost savings of 50%. He enhances two stores per year and starts by replacing hard-mount machines with soft-mount Continental washers and dryers.

“At many of our acquired stores, utility costs consumed 40% of revenue,” Machesney says. “Now, because of the new equipment, we’ve got that down to 18 to 20%.” The soft-mount, high-speed equipment also ensures customers can complete laundry in less than 60 minutes, he adds.

Machesney’s most profitable vended laundry is Pratt Abbott’s Express Laundry Center, a 4,200-square-foot store with 72 machines in Windham, Maine. It’s equipped with high-speed ExpressWash washers, a Laundry Boss payment system that allows customers to pay with a mobile device, and a San-O3-wash ozone system. The latter injects ozone gas into accompanying washers to sanitize customers’ laundry and eradicate bacteria and viruses.

“It’s another level of protection,” says Machesney. “We also have a few larger washers with Express Clean chemical injection, which automatically dispenses specially formulated detergents, brighteners and softeners so customers don’t have to lug and load detergents.”

Focused on providing that same customer convenience and peace-of-mind, Jim Massey’s Cleaners & Laundry's new express laundry will be a high-speed, soft-mount store equipped with ExpressWash and ExpressDry equipment, ozone sanitization and automatic chemical injection.

“We have soft-mount washers in the drycleaning plant and love them for their high extract speeds, less water retention and low maintenance,” says Owner Jim Massey. The washers that will soon be installed in Massey’s new vended laundry produce speeds of up to 400 G-force, remove significantly more moisture than comparable hard-mount washers, and allow customers to complete laundry in less than an hour.

BETTER TOGETHER: DRY CLEANING PLUS VENDED

At the end of the day, according to Machesney, Massey and Engle, vended laundries mix perfectly with drycleaning operations. Not only do they create a second profit center, but vended laundries also offer needed space to launch wash/dry/fold services, help improve over-the-counter drycleaning sales, and provide stability during economic downturns. When developed correctly — to stand apart from the competition — vended laundries typically become reliably profitable.

“If we weren’t happy with the return of our first vended laundry, we wouldn’t be looking to develop a second one,” says Engle. 

Haley Jorgensen is a freelance writer operating from her business, Public Image, in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
 

To read Part 1, click HERE