This is Chapter 13 of the book ‘Investor’s Guide to Coin Laundries’, compiled in 2012 by Jay McDonald, Vice President, Distributor Sales for Alliance Laundry Systems.
An Investor’s Guide to Coin Laundries | Open for Business | Chapter 13
Alliance Laundry Systems is the largest manufacturer of commercial laundry equipment in the world and has over 50 years of experience in helping investors just like you, get started in the coin laundry market. This book is a compilation of experiences, ideas and input from hundreds of successful coin laundry owners and distributors from all over the world. Taking data and industry knowledge, it is a road map to help you succeed. At the end of it, you will have a general understanding of the industry and what it will take to operate a successful business.
A NOTE ON COIN-OPERATED LAUNDRIES IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
In Southern Africa, coin laundries are typically found in flats or townhouse complexes, caravan parks, holiday resorts and universities. Historically coin-operated activation systems have supported these laundries. However, this system is largely being replaced by our LaundryConnect Cashless Payment Gateway, which is convenient, hassle-free and the way of the future. It is easy to integrate or replace your existing coin mechanism in order to offer cashless payments or to use a card to activate machines.
The Big Day : We are Open for Business
Chapter 13 : THE BIG DAY: WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS!
It’s finally here. There’s nervous excitement building as you prepare to open your doors and have new customers come in to enjoy their laundry experience in your coin laundry. Then the negative thoughts start. What if there are no customers? What happens if the equipment malfunctions? What happens if the water heater breaks? What happens? What happens? What happens?
All of these “what ifs” can be overwhelming come opening day, but there are some things you can do to make sure that those doubts are put aside. The number one thing is to be prepared and let the countdown begin!
Six months before opening .
TO HELP ENSURE YOU WILL HAVE CUSTOMERS IN YOUR STORE ON OPENING DAY, THERE ARE A FEW THINGS YOU’RE GOING TO WANT TO DO AHEAD OF TIME:
- Create an advertising/public relations plan. There are many great resources to help you develop a strategic and integrated marketing plan. If it is in your budget, consider hiring an independent marketing company. They can handle everything from development of your store logo to the creation of a media plan that encompasses all of your radio and television advertising, along with a public relations plan that will compliment your advertising and develop ways to incorporate social media into getting the message out of your new store. If hiring an agency is out of your budget, consider turning to freelance experts in your area. Hiring an independent graphic artist and public relations expert is often more cost effective, but will require you to be more hands on in your approach to making sure your store will have a consistent message.
- Determine if you will offer special discounted pricing or coupons to promote your store and attract new customers. While some may only offer discounts on the day of the grand opening, I believe that discounts should be offered for at least the first 3 weeks. After all, not everyone attending your grand opening may need to do their laundry on that day — give them a reason to visit your store again (and again and again).Doing these six months before the grand opening gives you plenty of time to make changes to any of the things proposed including the graphic layout of print ads and logo design, as well as make sure deadlines are met with the advertising venues you choose to partner with.In chapter 14, we’ll be going into more depth on how advertising and public relations can work together in not only growing your business, but helping to retain the customers you attract in the beginning.
- If possible, place signs in the windows in the front of your store that announces a new laundry is coming soon. Change this sign when your opening is one month away to alert the community that the new business “will be open in less than 30 days — mark your calendar.”
- Plan your open house. A great way to celebrate and bring traffic into your business is by planning and hosting an open house. You have built a beautiful store but the only way to gain a new customer is to get them inside your doors for the first time. Some items for your open house event may include:Joining your local chamber of commerce. They can provide you with a mailing list of chamber members to invite to your open house, as well as a ribbon cutting. Most include a photo of the event with the story in their newsletter and in the local newspaper.Invite local politicians. You are opening a new business, generating more income through taxes for the city, you are enhancing the services in a local neighborhood, you are even aiding in the creation of jobs if you are hiring attendants and providing drop-off and commercial laundry services. Send them a letter detailing these highlights, follow up with their staff about them attending. It will also help to generate additional press.
Sample list of invitees
• Chamber president
• State Senator and Legislator
• Vendors (plumber, contractor, electrician, etc.)
• Businesses that you are prospecting as commercial customers
• Managers of surrounding businesses in your area
Develop an invitation list. Besides politicians, there are others who have aided in helping you with the opening. You are going to want to make sure you invite your distributor, your contractor, your attorneys, family and friends as a way to say thank you to them.
Hire a caterer. Food is a great way to bring people in. It can be something elaborate like hors d’oeuvres or as simple as hamburgers and hotdogs. This is where your demographics will play a role. If you are opening a coin laundry in a high-end neighborhood, then going more upscale for your open house will be ideal. If it is a family neighborhood, then food and activities should be geared towards families. Choose food that matches the ethnicity of prospective customers. Some new owners view this as an unnecessary expense, figuring that they can do this themselves. While that may be the case, it is more important for you to spend your time meeting and establishing a relationship with potential customers than to prepare and serve sandwiches.
Plan activities. Consider what sort of in-store promotions you will offer that day as well as other activities that your guests can enjoy. This is your opening day and your open house; it’s a party for you, your customers and all of those that helped you along the way. Big draws may often include a prize wheel or other giveaways like a free wash or dry coupon or special discounted prices for your services. Any of these ideas should be included in your advertising.
Grand Opening Event Ideas
One month before you open
It’s now only one month before you open and there are still lots of things to do. This is the time when you want to start tying up loose ends and scheduling last minute inspections and deliveries.
- In-store signage
If you haven’t already sent your signage to the printer, now is the time to make sure it is graphically the way you want it, make sure the spelling is correct and schedule a date when the items will be ready for pick up.
- Equipment delivery and installation
If all of your equipment isn’t already in place, you want to work with your distributor to track when it will be arriving and installed. If it’s in, start doing test loads to make sure equipment is operating properly and that you and your employees can train customers how to use them.
- Schedule the walk through with your building inspector
Many cities require that you obtain an inspection and permits before you can open your store to the public. The last thing you want to do is have your opening delayed because there are things that need to be corrected in order to meet codes.
- Send out your invitations
Those guests that you are inviting need about a four week lead time in order to get your event on their calendars. This includes scheduling the ribbon cutting with the chamber and/or local politicians and dignitaries.
- Start advertising
Whether it’s in the newspaper or on the radio, now is the time to have a frequent advertising schedule begin. This will help create top-of-mind awareness with the community. Write and submit your press release. More details are found at the end of the next chapter.
- Canvas the neighbourhood
Print up some flyers and go door-to-door talking with the neighbors letting them know when you are opening and invite them to the grand opening. This personalized approach will go a long way in ingratiating yourself and your business with your potential customers.
One week before you open
Now is when the nerves really start. It’s only one week before your opening day. You’ve fixed any concerns by the building inspector, your equipment is installed and working, you’ve been generating excitement from the neighborhood, the chamber is all set, you’ve heard back from those you’ve invited and your party is shaping up.
One week before you open you’re going to want to:
- Review your checklist
Make sure everything on it is done or will be by the deadline.
- Confirm the time with the caterer
When you want them to arrive and begin setting up.
- Host a trial run
Invite friends and family for a night of free laundry. This will help you to make sure everything runs smoothly the day you officially open and provide employees with an opportunity to get their feet wet and you the chance to correct any potential customer service issues. Friends and family are far more forgiving than new customers when mistakes occur. Some owners prefer to unofficially open their store for business (called a soft opening) for 2–4 weeks before the big grand opening event. This is a matter of personal preference.
- Thoroughly clean your store
Again, one of those common sense things. You want your equipment shining and ready to go.
- Put up window signage
You’ve been creating buzz through the advertising and public relations plan you have in place. You’ve been meeting with the neighborhood, to further generate excitement, a week before you open, put up your window signage, providing another notice to people passing by that you are opening in the next week, inviting them in to do their laundry.
- Go over the opening day plan with your employees
You are going to be busy that day and your employees will be the additional help you need. They need to know everything you do including what time your vendors are arriving, the time of the ribbon cutting, when the doors officially open, what specials you are offering that day for customers and so on.
The day of your open house
It’s finally the day. You’re excited, but now is not the time to be nervous. The morning of the open house, you should do a final walk through before you open the doors. Make sure the grounds are clean, the store is clean, television and lights are turned on, radio if you have it.
As your vendors start to arrive, you’ll be busy directing them where you want them to be. Once things are set up and you are ready to open officially, open the doors, greet the public, the politicians, thanking everyone who has helped you along the way and most of all, enjoy it because as of today, you are officially in business as a coin laundry owner.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JAY McDONALD has been active in the laundry industry for over 30 years. He is the Vice President, Distributor Sales for Alliance Laundry Systems, the largest manufacturer of commercial laundry equipment in the world. He also served on the board of directors for the Coin Laundry Association and received the Distinguished Service Award “in appreciation of his leadership in furthering the welfare and best interests of the coin laundry industry” in 2009.
SA’s FIRST COMPLETE CASHLESS PAYMENT SOLUTION
Laundry Connect offers an affordable and adaptable payment gateway that is fast becoming the system of choice. It is easy to integrate or replace your existing coin mechanism in order to offer cashless payments or to use a card to activate machines.