Of all the factors impacting the success of a laundromat, site selection is right up there with having sufficient capital to launch and operate a new business. Both affect a business’ chances of succeeding to a larger degree than almost any other factors.
With that said, the key is to define what type of laundry business you are developing. Are you a “destination laundromat” in a thinly populated rural town with little competition? Or are you trying to compete in a mature, densely populated area – such as New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles – where you may not have the luxury of choosing the perfect location, due to the high cost of development, expensive rents, and less options.
If you can choose an ideal location and build a store from the ground up, you can become a destination business without the benefit of a high-traffic anchor. However, if you’re trying to compete in a mature, more densely populated area, reliance on a strong marketing program, differentiation and/or price become significant factors.
Defining yourself and your business before finding your store’s location is critical. You can find a profitable niche in a highly competitive urban or suburban market, or you can be “the only game in town” in smaller, rural market. However, trying to fit a preconceived notion of your laundry’s business model into an existing market can be more “wishful thinking” than an actual practical business decision.
It should be noted that owning the real estate is a key element of our overall business philosophy. We own the property at both of our locations. Both have parking directly adjacent to the buildings. Neither of the stores is located on a high-traffic street, but both are centrally located in older parts of small, rural towns.
When it comes to choosing a site for your store, being centrally located in the general market area is important, but it’s not critical, if you’re defining your laundry as a destination facility. However, ease of access and sufficient parking adjacent to your laundromat is indeed crucial. Also, you don’t necessarily have to be located on a busy street, if you have few competitors. Skillful marketing and a high-quality operation can overcome a somewhat compromised location.
Savvy owners can overcome almost any obstacle caused by a poor location. Then again, the operator who irrationally justifies the negative factors of his or her store site will eventually go out of business, because customers will choose to go elsewhere if given a choice.
So, be sure to decide upfront what kind of vended laundry business you want to develop. Will your store be attended or unattended? Will you seek to service commercial accounts? Will you offer residential pickup and delivery? Do you want your laundry to be a “combination business” – including a car wash, a café, a dog wash, a fitness center, a drycleaners, etc.?
Precisely define the exact business you want to build, and then design a facility to easily service the type of business you have defined. Be disciplined and focused with regard to what you want your business to be. After all, if you have a clear vision of what you want your store to look like at the outset, as well as what types of services you plan to offer, selecting a laundry location is going to be just that much easier.