Gain a Competitive Edge using Credit/Debit Card Systems.

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 increasing profits.

Some Statistics

Credit and debit card statistics back up the argument for coin laundries to offer equipment with devices that take these cards.

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 professional alterations.

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.

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