By Wally Makowsky | May 13, 2009
I recently opened a 5,000-square-foot store, with 80 washers and 60 dryers. I’m selling large containers of detergent over the counter, as well as selling smaller boxes out of a soap vending machine. Does it make sense to do both?
Yes, you should sell both. After all, some customers prefer a single-wash size while others prefer multi-use sizes. However, you don’t need mega-size bottles of detergent to satisfy your customers’ needs. In fact, a six- to 12-use container is probably as large a size as you need to offer.
Also, don’t lose focus as to what business you’re really in. You’re in the self-service laundry business, not the soap merchandising business. Your main mission is to satisfy your customers so that they continue to return to your store to do their laundry. Unfortunately, some operators spend more time buying and trying to sell merchandise than actually operating and managing their coin laundries.
I recently came across a great example of this. I was at a large store that sells products over the counter, so I asked the owner a few questions, and the final answers were amazing – especially to the owner himself.
The store’s sales of laundry products average between $1,000 and $1,200 per week. The markup on the products is 35 percent, and the owner’s average profit is between $600 and $650 per week.
But it is costing him $800 per week to run the operation, so he is actually losing money on merchandise sales.
He has two attendants – one whose job is to clean the store and the other who just sits behind the counter and waits on customers. That doesn’t make sense. He is losing money behind the counter.
In addition, he isn’t keeping a tight inventory, so he’s not really certain how much he is making or losing.
My advice: There are vending machines available that handle large containers of soap. Get out of the merchandise business. You’re in the self-service laundry business. Keep your labor costs down and control your inventory.
I operate a pick-up and delivery service in my coin laundry, and one of my new customers is a massage therapist. This therapist uses two different types of oils – grape seed and jobo. Please tell me the best method for removing the oil stains and the odor from the linen. Also, this customer uses white, color and printed sheets. This account will determine if I seek more business from other massage therapists.
Oil is very difficult to remove from laundry. And since you’re not in the commercial laundry business, you’ll be using a coin-operated laundry, which has some restrictions on water temperatures, times and water levels.
Therefore, your best bet is to buy a liquid detergent that contains a citrus solvent. Any citrus solvent detergent will work. Use it like you would any other detergent. The only difference is that in the pre-wash place a small amount of detergent on the items. Then, in your regular wash, use the citrus solvent detergent with an oxygen bleach.
I would use a warm water wash – not hot. Be sure to use an oxygen bleach along with it in your regular wash cycle.
Of course, a good citrus-based detergent with an oxygen bleach will also remove the odors. But you have to use the right amount. Don’t shortchange yourself on either chemical, because oily stains are extremely difficult to remove.