In virtually every retail outlet across America consumers are
given the option to use their credit or debit card to pay for their
purchases. But in about 99 percent of coin laundries, paying for
washing and drying with these types of cards isn't an option.
Previously, the technology either wasn't available or it was too
expensive. But times have changed. And if you're looking for a
competitive edge or a revenue booster, retrofitting coin laundry
equipment with credit/debit readers may be a great way of
Credit and debit card statistics back up the argument for coin
laundries to offer equipment with devices that take these
By the end of 2010, MasterCard and Visa had more than 960
million credit and debit cards in circulation in the U.S.,
according to each card's website. And, consumers are more likely to
purchase more when paying with credit and debit cards when compared
to cash purchases, according to "The Survey of Consumer Payment
Choice," Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
The First in Tennessee
When Ed Schmidt decided to open a laundromat in Athens, Tenn.,
he wanted to provide the optimum flexibility for his customers.
The Sullied Duck opened in June 2010 as the first laundromat in
Tennessee to provide a credit/debit card system for laundry
customers. The system is on 20 of the washers and dryers, giving
customers the option to use coins or credit/debit cards.
The credit/debit card system has been popular with customers
because they no longer have to carry large amounts of coins. Using
a credit/debit card streamlines the laundry process because
customers don't need to take steps to get cash or change before
using the machines.
About 30 percent of customers use the credit/debit option, with
70 percent still using coins.
The laundromat also provides maximum flexibility with its mix of
equipment. It offers 21 Speed Queen washers ranging in size from 20
pounds to 80 pounds, and 23 dryers ranging from 30 pounds to 75
pounds. The different sizes allow customers to choose the option
that best suits their needs.
The Speed Queen patented Quantum Silver control system has been
a helpful tool to Ed. Quantum allows Ed to monitor store activity
including machine usage and water consumption. Quantum Silver also
allows customers to select different wash cycles with varying
temperatures and fill levels.
Ed wanted to make sure his customers had a great experience at
his store so he added amenities like free Wi-Fi, flat panel
televisions, an adult lounge and a children's lounge complete with
video games to appeal to different audiences. He also offers a
curbside drop-off service for those customers in a hurry and
Return on Investment
Laundromats have a traditionally high return on investment with
low or no labor costs. They have the potential for first year ROI
of up to 15-to-20 percent and a breakeven point on investment of
less than a year.
Ed notes that the laundromat has been a good investment. The
store has been in the black since the third month of opening. Ed
attributes the success to a combination of factors: service,
equipment, ambiance and the added value benefits available.
Customers see the value of the Speed Queen machines, recognizing
that they're top of the line, have better wash cycles and are
dependable. The amenities, along with good customer service, help
keep a steady flow of attendance and drive repeat business.
The credit/debit card machines have helped give The Sullied Duck
its competitive advantage. Customers are using more expensive
cycles since they no longer have to carry coins and are willing to
break up larger loads, using more machines. With the amount of
people who rely on credit/debit cards every day, the system will
undoubtedly become more popular over time.
Importance of the Right Distributor
Ed partnered with Star Distributing of Tennessee when he decided
to open The Sullied Duck. From day one, they worked with him to
provide information on the laundry industry, including location
selection, store layout and equipment mix. They also helped Ed set
up financing through Alliance Laundry Systems.
Star Distributing was a great partner when it came to
establishing the credit/debit card system as they had familiarity
with the set-up and made sure The Sullied Duck was equipped with
the right machines for the system.
Star Distributing continues to be a resource for Ed. They stop
by to do routine maintenance, as well as conduct training to keep
Schmidt and his staff up to date with the industry developments. Ed
uses his distributor partner for a sounding board as he continues
to grow and develop the business.