Fine-Tuning Laundry Pickup & Delivery (Part 1)
CHICAGO – Consumer interest in Wash-Dry-Fold (WDF) services has been on the rise for quite some time as the coronavirus pandemic created an environment where staying clean was key to staying healthy. But what if a customer, aware of the risk of contracting the virus around others, didn’t visit their local laundromat, but still wants someone else to do their laundry?
Hello, pick up and delivery.
This aspect of laundry service is not new. Self-service laundries, especially in densely populated urban areas, have been picked up and delivered for years. But if there was ever time to think about adding the option, this could be the case. And even if your business takes to the streets routinely, the growth in the WDF market could indicate that you need to fine-tune things to stay current in your area.
The Coin Laundry Association (CLA) recently hosted a webinar that focused on launching a pickup and delivery service. President Brian Wallace hosted a group of operators with experience ranging from approximately a year to more than three decades.
A state of readiness
Before offering to pick up and return a customer’s goods, it is important that laundry owners assess the market potential as well as the current capabilities of their operation.
“Do a Google search of your area for pickup and delivery and see what the competition is if there is competition,” says Chris Balestracci, owner of Super Wash in East Haven, Connecticut. He has been in business since 1988 and has bought, renovated, and sold four different stores during that time.
“Do you have the infrastructure, in other words, are you the size of a laundromat that can facilitate both collection and delivery and your regular business? And do you have the staff? Do you have a manual that shows each employee how to do the laundry the same way they do at McDonald’s every time? Sally can’t come in and do it one way and Jane does it another way. “
Dave Menz owns four Queen City Laundry locations in the Cincinnati area. He started his delivery service in 2016 and now has three trucks that are handled by seven full-time and part-time drivers. When his stores were upgraded with brand new equipment, he found that he had a lot of excess capacity. Offering collection and delivery was one way to generate additional volume.
“Collection and delivery took place at one of the clean shows. I just did a due diligence, took care of it … we already had a pretty mature team on washing and drying. … there is market potential, there is overcapacity, the team already knows how to process laundry professionally … so it made sense to dive into it all over the world. “
Matthew Simmons of Super Suds Laundry in Long Beach, Calif., Says one of his goals was to “keep machines turning at night”. The operation now handles at least 600 pickups per month.
“The best way to tell if there is a market is to look around your laundromat. Is there a laundry and wrinkle market? If not, is there a place to drive that has a laundry and wrinkle market? People pay a premium for washing and wrinkling. It’s a different business, different customer expectations. It’s a service business.
“What do you value? You value comfort and time savings. If someone is okay with taking their clothes to the laundromat, it is probably okay for you to pick up their clothes from their house. It’s more convenient and saves you more time. … We’re pretty good at pickup and delivery, but we feel like we’re just scratching the surface. There are far more shops than any laundromat. “
DEPARTURE FROM THE NORM
Jonathan Babcock opened a WaveMAX laundry franchise in Knoxville, Tennessee in late 2019. Like other members of the panel, he also found that pickup and delivery are completely different from self-service laundry.
“It’s really a very different business from owning a laundromat. The skills to use it are completely different, ”says Babcock, whose background is in the technology and cellular business. “In my opinion, collection and delivery is a marketing and logistics business. The product is the same as what you sell in the store … but it comes down to whether you can run a logistics company. Can you implement systems and processes so that you do it the same way every time, regardless of who the employee is? Do you have the back-end software to make sure the clothes don’t get mixed up? “
“Even if you wash and fold in the store, you have a lot of moving parts,” says Simmons. “Did you pay? What are your preferences? The weight. Customer information. Then it becomes exponentially more when it is picked up and delivered because you have the payment information, address, driver notes. I would say number 1 in automation is, in a sense, communication. “
And just because you have a healthy WDF business doesn’t mean those customers will willingly switch to pickup and delivery.
“In terms of the number of (pick-up and delivery) customers that we have received from our existing WDF customers, the number is very small. Maybe 5%, ”says Balestracci. “These customers like the lower price. They like to bring it in and they don’t care if they make the ride. The pickup and delivery customer is very busy working from home, has two or three children, doesn’t have the time, has the extra money and wants to have the pickup and delivery. “
“Traditional demographic data, as we know it in the laundromat business, is not very suitable for drop-off or pick-up and delivery,” says Menz. “Really, what you are seeing is disposable household income. And that doesn’t show up in a demographic report. “
Check back on Thursday to see the graduation!
The Coin Laundry Association often runs webinars covering topics such as marketing, business operations and management, training new investors, and more. Visit www.coinlaundry.org/events/webinars to learn more.
(Photo © kaczor58 / Depositphotos)