In a community with rising personal income, limited space, and the ability to handle household chores, the laundry business presents an opportunity. Such a business model has been proven to be a moneymaker, allowing franchisees to grow to help upstart investors get their feet wet.
But before delving into such a lucrative business, it is important to assess one’s compatibility with the laundry business. More than just financial capability, it pays to understand the target market, the competition, and elements that contribute to the success (or failure) of the business.
Get to know your market
Before you can decide what type of service to offer, machines to use, and pricing models, you have to understand your target customers:
- Office workers who have no spare time to do their laundry
- Condo residents who don’t have enough space to hang their laundry
- Students in the dorm who have no laundry facilities at home
- Transient workers who only go home on weekends
If this is not enough, you can survey the area and examine the state of the competition if ever they exist. Are their machines filled to the brim all the time and takes longer for customers to get their pressed laundry?
Will customers likely prefer your staff to do the job and do home delivery or make use of self-service facilities as they have time to wait for their laundry?
Having adequate market research helps you set the price, offer the right service, and pick the right equipment. (Self-service or full service? Wash and fold or wash, fold, and service?)
Pick the best location
Just like in any other business, shop location is a crucial factor in a business. Foot traffic going to your laundry business is ideally close to residential areas where clothes, bedsheets, and carpets come from. If you can’t secure a nearby location, you might want to consider a pickup and delivery service (free or paid) to save your customers some time. So ideally, if your target market is occupants of a condo building, setting up shop at the building’s basement can be a wise choice.
Also, based on your research, customers might usually go for groceries or grab a coffee after dropping off their laundry. So establishing the business close for complementary enterprises will also help.
But in addition to proximity to your clients, one primary consideration of putting up your business is not only a steady water supply but also a quality that does not compromise the desired results and minimize wastage on detergent or fabric softener.
Invest in durable equipment
As you embark on the long haul, getting durable (though more pricy) machines saves you money on maintenance and repairs down the road.
Things to note when acquiring industrial washing machines:
- Front loading washing machines are often used compared to top-loading counterparts because the cost per washing is lower.
- Check the service history, online reviews, and legitimacy to operate the business (valid license, accreditation, authorized to perform repairs or preventive maintenance) of the supplier.
- Besides machines, use compatible materials (detergent, fabric softeners) and operating conditions (temperature, humidity level) to help extend the washing machine’s working life and minimize problems along the way.
Study the competition
It might be intimidating to enter a crowd of existing competition. But if your market research indicates opportunities for a newcomer, then entering as a new player should benefit customers. They will benefit from better service, reasonable pricing, and more choices based on their needs.
Before setting up shop or looking for a location, ask these questions about your competitors:
- What are their operating hours?
- Do they offer free delivery and pickup?
- Do they accept credit cards, cash, and other payment options?
- Do they offer extra amenities such as parking spaces or air-conditioned premises?
- Do they offer incentives such as discounts for off-peak hours customers or free choice of fabric softeners?
- Do they offer full service or self-service?
- Do they accept a wide range of services (wash and fold, press, delivery) and items (clothes, curtains, blankets, delicates, etc.)?
- Is their pricing model sustainable and should you engage in a price war?
- Do they have a known brand name and reputation for good service?
If the market is saturated, it could end up in a war of attrition that a newcomer with no established band of loyal customers might give up sooner than established competitors.
Plan your promotion strategy
Reaching out to your neighborhood audience for local store marketing might get involved in handing out flyers along with enticing offers of free laundry of up to a certain weight to test your service. To reach a bigger and targeted audience might involve the use of tarps on areas with significant foot traffic or newspapers targeting your intended audience — white-collar workers.
Bring your business online. Create a website or Facebook Page, which also features your business, advertise on Google, and optimize your online presence. So when people use Google to search for laundry and dry cleaning services, for example, your business is listed ahead of the competition.
Happy clients are the best salespeople. So you can provide incentives (discounts, free delivery) for them to share their good experience (rating your business 5-star on Yelp or Google My Business. When they share your Facebook post on their timeline or link to your business listing from their blogs, you know you’re doing right.
Listen to clients’ suggestions or comments
Speaking of happy clients, not all clients are expected to have the same experience. Some will feel rates are too high, others complain about long waiting times, lost or damaged clothes, or disagree on the detergent used. As customers, they have the right to air their frustrations, and as business operators, they are our source of opportunities to improve our service.
But it’s also not expected that you’ll follow all their suggestions no matter how sensible they may be. You have your interests and bottom line as a reference. Does this change apply to the majority of my most profitable client segment? Will opening earlier or closing later attract more customers or eventually wear down equipment and raise costs for overtime pay and utilities?
Some clients don’t express their frustrations directly at you. They share thoughts on Facebook; they leave disparaging comments on review websites or badmouth you in front of many people. Yet, being open to communication is key to resolving many issues that can be traced to miscommunication, lack of understanding, or unmet expectations. Have your contact details available (phone number, Twitter account, Facebook page, website address, and so on).
Hire experienced or easy to train staff
Washing clothes can be a complicated matter. Whites and colored clothes have to be washed separately. Dry cleaning and laundry symbols have to be respected, and washer and dryer settings have to be matched with clothing appropriately. So hiring an experienced laundry business staff saves you the trouble of training them from scratch, especially if you have no prior experience yourself. Efficiency in usage helps save energy, materials, and time. Running a machine with a minimal amount of laundry can lead to inefficient use of water, detergent, and electricity.
Having staff that has experienced or willing to learn new skills helps maintain an efficient laundry shop operation.
Getting your laundry business in good shape starts with proper research, a good understanding of how the industry works and linking your service to the needs of your clients.
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