By Bob Eisenberg | May 14, 2009
When the industry first started and for at least the first 25 years, the stores were all about the same – small neighborhood stores with all topload washers, two large “rug washers” all the way in the back and, if there were 20 washers, there would be 10 or 12 30-pound dryers.
Over the years, for a variety of reasons, the topload washers were replaced with frontload, commercial-style washers. The concept of large washers only for rugs gave way to an increased number of larger washers that are now being used for family-sized loads. These larger washers – 30-, 40-, 50-, 75/80- and even 125-pound-capacity machines – generate more revenue per square foot and attract the larger customer with larger bundles who spend more money. The stores got larger and now many – although certainly not all – of the older, small neighborhood stores are being replaced by larger destination stores from 3,500 square feet to more than 7,000 square feet in size.
The dryer situation changed with the invention of stack dryers; there was never enough room to put in enough dryers. If you look at any busy laundromat, customers can load the washers very full because they know that no matter what they put into the washers, the load will be done in about 30 minutes. That’s not true with dryers. The more they stuff the dryers, the longer it takes and, in our fast-paced world today, time is more important than money.
Look at any busy self-service laundry – the dryers will fill up before all of the washers do. Stack dryers solved that problem. As a result, dryer income increased, customers “spread out” in the dryers and spend more money.
Also, now that we are using larger washers, we are installing larger dryers, in addition to the 30-pound stacks. Comforters, sleeping bags, blankets and normal laundry that is washed in large washers dry better in a larger dryer pocket. Today, there are 45- and 50-pound stack dryers, as well as 75- and 80-pound single-pocket dryers, that vend for more money and have become an additional profit center for the owner, while providing enhanced service to the customers.
The exact mix of equipment in any particular store is still determined by the demographic of the trading area. You should ask the advice of your local distributer or other experts, including the CLA, to assist in analyzing the demographics of your store. The mix for a modern retail laundry in a densely populated family neighborhood typically features at least 50 percent larger washers (30-, 40-, 50-, 75-, 80-, or 125-pound sizes).
The dryer mix can be calculated many ways. I prefer this rule of thumb: at least one dryer pocket for every washer. In fact, if there are 50 washers, 55 or 56 dryer pockets are better – and, of those dryers, I would advise one larger dryer pocket for each 50-pound washer or above. Just a side note: When building a “destination”-type store to attract a larger customer from a larger trading area, parking is usually critical.
In an urban “walk-in” store with no parking, in a college community or any area that is dominated by singles and not families, the mix should feature less large washers and more small washers. In the case of a walk-in store, customers typically don’t walk down the street with 300 pounds of laundry under their arms. You will still need larger washers but about 25 percent of your total mix should be enough.
Of course, all of this is only a guideline. In my more than 30 years in this industry, I have never seen a “cookie-cutter” store, and there are always exceptions to the rules. Each location and each situation needs to be carefully considered and well thought through with the help of your local professional or adviser, which is typically your local distributor who knows the nuances of your local market.