American Coin-Op magazine has interviewed Richard LaMaina, president of Equipment Marketers, for some insight regarding unattended versus attended coin stores.
Attended vs. Unattended: No Magic Formula
Originally published by American Coin-Op, June 2012 - PDF Format
CHICAGO, Illinois (June 13, 2012) – Even if you're not a literary scholar, most of you are probably familiar with William Shakespeare's famous phrase: "To be or not to be." For self-service laundry owners, "To be or not to be" may come to mind when deciding whether to open an attended or unattended store.
While industry representatives have long claimed that there is no "magic" formula when it comes to the attended/unattended decision, most agree that there are basic factors that affect one's call. For example, if you have a large store (more than 2,000 square feet) and want to offer extra services, the attended route is the way to go. The larger stores require more cleaning and have more equipment that needs to be cared for. The extra equipment also generates extra revenue, which helps pays for the attendant.
If you have a small store or two (1,500 square feet or so) and don't want to spend time at the store(s), being unattended is an option. If you don't have extra services or enough work for an attendant, why do you want the hassle of dealing with employees? With fewer machines there is also less revenue. Do you really want to cut into your profits by paying an attendant?
Are you thinking about opening a new store and wondering if you need attendants? Now is a great time to take another look at this age-old industry debate.
American Coin-Op recently spoke with industry representatives about the attended vs. unattended issue. The self-service laundry industry continues to evolve, and some of the following opinions may cause you to look at this question in a different light.
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Demographics play a key role in the creation of unattended stores, says Dick LaMaina, Equipment Marketers, Cherry Hill, N.J. Equipment Marketers operates in Pennsylvania, Delaware, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and south New Jersey. LaMaina has also operated attended laundries.
In Pennsylvania, he estimates about 50% of the stores are unattended because the state has the largest rural population in the United States. "It's also an older population, and you just can't have big stores in some of those rural areas," he says. In the larger urban areas of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, almost all the laundries are attended, he adds.
The average rural, unattended store is usually between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet, he estimates, although size isn't the only factor in determining if a store should be attended. "It's all about having the revenue to pay for a person."
Owners of unattended stores still need someone to work at the store for several hours a day, he advises. Someone must clean up and open and close the store (unless the store has self-locking doors). A dirty store will lose customers, he believes. "Customers can be lost forever." A lost customer means losing $500 to $1,500 a year, he estimates.
Another unattended concern is introducing new equipment. "There is a learning curve with new machinery. The new machines use less detergent. People don't read the signage about machine usage." LaMaina advises store owners to spend some time at the unattended store when new equipment is installed.
Store refunds are another concern. When it comes to refunds, make sure to have the proper signage and have a working phone number for customers to contact you, he suggests.
The No. 1 concern for an attended owner is managing people. "Labor is more than a pricing issue," he warns. "The owner of an attended store must deal with budgeting, bookkeeping and supervision."
LaMaina would market the fact that his store is attended. "Being attended is a great benefit. All things being equal, some customers would rather go to an attended store. Customers want help at times and feel safer with someone around. People like people."
Even though unattended stores present certain challenges, LaMaina says they will always be around because some stores don't generate enough revenue to pay employees.
About Equipment Marketers: In business since 1945, Equipment Marketers is an expert in the design and development of Maytag® Commercial Equipped Laundromats in the Mid-Atlantic area. Maytag's dependability for quality equipment is matched only by Equipment Marketers' reputation for superior Red Carpet Service and customer support. Equipment Marketers' specialized sales representatives can provide broad-based knowledge in successful commercial laundry development, including information on demographics, store layout, laundry accessories and the proper mix of equipment. Equipment Marketers also distributes the highest technology in credit/smart card programs, online laundry monitoring systems, and other ancillary laundry supplies. The company's extensive parts warehouse and personalized attention are just a few reasons why people have continued to patronize Equipment Marketers for over a half a century.
For more information on Equipment Marketers' products and services, call 800.223.1376 or visit www.equipmentmarketers.net.