Starting Out with Laundromats – An Overview of the Coin Laundry Business

A Laundromat is the perfect business for anyone who wants a profitable business with the potential to grow but doesn’t want to spend all their time working. Most owners of Laundromats truly enjoy the business so much that a lot of them open multiple stores. Having a business that doesn’t require a lot of involvement but delivers a comfortable profit is a wonderful opportunity.

You might ask yourself why you should consider something as unexciting as a Laundromat when there are so many exciting ventures available. The short answer is that this is a business with a very low failure rate and a sound business concept. Laundromat owners make money even when other businesses are floundering, no matter what shape the economy is in. It’s a service that everyone need. People will cut corners and find cheaper ways to do things but there are few people that are willing to wash their own clothing in their sink or bathtub.

Laundromats are used by people from every income group. Even the wealthiest people use Laundromats that provide a service that lets them drop off their washing and pick it up later when it has been washed, dried and folded. Businesses, especially smaller ones, use Laundromats for their linens and other items.

Once you succeed with one Laundromat you may want to start another in a different location. You won’t be working 20 hour days like a lot of business owners do to get their businesses on their feet as it takes just a few hours a week to maintain the store, collect the coins, replenish the change machines and do the accounting. It’s a partially automated business that doesn’t require a lot of attention from the owner.

laundromat business opportunity
Image: midorisyu / Flickr

A Business Full of Opportunities

You can start your Laundromat in a few different ways depending on how fast you need it to be profitable and how much financing you have available. You can buy an already existing store that is doing well with an established clientele. You may want to opt for one that is not doing well so that you can get it at a bargain price. If you have a lot of financial resources, you can start your own from the bottom up. If you choose the latter you can often get a good deal on your lease because Laundromats are viewed as “anchor” stores by strip mall landlords. They usually sig long leases and support other businesses by bringing in regular customers.

If you are successful with your first Laundromat you might want to follow the Franchise business model. Opening a couple more Laundromats and selling or leasing them to entrepreneurs like yourself can bring you a very nice passive income.

What will it Cost?

A Laundromat has some pretty hefty start up costs, one of the few drawbacks of starting this kind of business. You’ll have to allow for building costs or renovation if you decide to start from scratch as well as the cost of washers, dryers, coin changing machines, sewage and waste disposal. Don’t forget about insurance and security systems if you should need them.

Promoting Your Business

Laundromats don’t need much in the way of marketing and you probably won’t be doing much of it after your business becomes known in the community. You’ll need good signage, of course, and that’s one area you can use to attract a better class of customer. A cheap, garish sign like “Duds ‘N Suds” will attract a different sort of person than a sign with “Laundromat” in a distinctive font or cursive with an understated color scheme. Making the inside of the store attractive and comfortable will also help the store attract a more positive trade.

Distributing flyers and having a launch party will let the community know you’re there and give them a chance to visit the premises. You should consider giving your store a website, which can be invaluable for promotions and publicity. You can draw your clients in with web-based newsletters that contain laundry hints, industry news and updates on the latest fashions and how to care for the fabrics involved. You could even stage a contest a few times a year that gives the winner a free wash and dry or kids’ coloring pages on holidays. Your clients will have fun and fell as if your store is “their” Laundromat. Compete with other stores by offering morning coffee or pay for play game machines; anything that increases customer comfort will help keep your store busy.

Location, Location, Location!

You can have the best store in the world but it will be a failure if you don’t choose the proper location. Study the demographics of any neighborhood you’re considering. You’ll need young families in apartments, students, maybe even some upper income clients to whom you can offer drop off and pick up service.

What can you afford? The best sites are priced accordingly but paying a little extra will generally result in healthier profits. On the other hand, a creative marketing program can keep customers coming in to a less desired location. You’ll need to assess the parking situation, whether your customers will be safe at night and if there are other businesses whose customers will be interested in your store.

Knowing your competitors is one of your best tools to success. Know their locations because if there are too many in one small area, none of them will do very well. It’s hard to make people break a habit and switch Laundromats.

How Do You Want to Manage Your Store?

One of the best aspects of running a Laundromat is the short work week. If you have just one store or even two, you’ll probably be working less than 10 hours per week to keep everything running smoothly. Once you grow larger you will probably need to hire a few employees to manage and maintain the stores. The advantage of having employees is that you can offer some premium services like small mending repairs, button replacements, washing, ironing and folding. The disadvantage is employee turnover, employees calling in sick at the last moment and other problems employers encounter. You’ll have to think about such situations and make some contingency plans. Running one store by yourself is quite different from being an employer.

You should decide if you want to keep the store open 24 hours a day or stick to an early morning to mid-evening schedule. You’ll save on utilities if you close at night but if you live near a large student population you could miss out on a lot of business. On the other hand, if your clientele is mostly young families or working people there won’t be much demand for your store’s services after 9PM. You may also save on insurance premiums if the store is closed at night.

Don’t forget that your machines will need maintenance and repairs. If you don’t know enough to make these repairs you should find a reliable person or company before you open your store. You can often find retired appliance repair personnel who are happy to pick up some work or you might see which companies others in your industry use. Being ready when a machine needs work will keep your store running smoothly and keep your customers happy.

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