Five Trends Reshaping the Laundromat Industry in the US and Beyond

By Brian Wallace, president and CEO of the Coin Laundry Association

Brian Wallace

In the dynamic landscape of the modern world, industries constantly evolve to meet the changing needs and preferences of consumers. One such industry experiencing a significant transformation is the laundromat business.

Today’s vended laundries are embracing innovation and adopting cutting-edge technologies that not only enhance the customer experience, but also improve operational efficiency. Let’s delve into five transformative trends that are reshaping the laundromat industry – positioning it as a promising sector for entrepreneurs and investors seeking sustainable growth in an ever-evolving market.

From the burgeoning full-service laundry model to the expansion of contactless payment systems across the industry, the future of laundromats is vibrant with opportunities for those willing to adapt and thrive amidst change. Let’s briefly explore how these major trends are revolutionizing the traditional laundromat model… and shaping the industry’s path forward.

1. WDB: Wash-Dry-Boom!

No doubt, the explosive growth of drop-off wash-dry-fold services, home delivery, and commercial accounts has dominated the industry narrative in recent years – particularly emerging from the pandemic, with more consumers now comfortable with outsourcing their household tasks.

At least partially accelerated by the fallout from COVID-19, there are more laundromat owners than ever before providing these full-service offerings. In fact, according to the most recent Coin Laundry Association industry survey, 65 percent of the respondents indicated they were offering wash-dry-fold services – while 50 percent of store owners are taking in commercial accounts work, and 38 percent are providing pickup and delivery to their customers.

Compared to the traditional self-service laundromat of old, this evolving laundry business model is far more complex to operate, yet also can be substantially more profitable.

2. Say Hello to the High-Tech Laundromat

Not that long ago, the notion of a “high-tech” laundromat rightfully would have been viewed as an oxymoron. However, today, we see the evidence and benefits of technology permeating all aspects of laundromat management.

Alternative payment options are one of the more visible ways technology has taken hold. In fact, the number of “coins-only” laundromats has dropped 40 percent in recent years, according to CLA statistics.

But that’s not all. Additionally, highly programmable and networked washers and dryers, intuitive routing and logistic software for pickup and delivery, enhanced point of sale systems, the revolution of digital marketing of laundromats, and the ability to remotely monitor several stores are a few more ways in which technology is increasingly helping laundry businesses operate more efficiently and more profitably. 

3. ‘New’ New Investor Interest Peaking

Although we continue to hear from traditional potential first-time laundromat owners – often career professionals looking for their first entrepreneurial endeavor, along with serial entrepreneurs looking to ply their expertise with a laundromat – we’re also now hearing from larger organizations with stronger balance sheets, looking to jump into the business in a big way with multiple locations in a short amount of time. Combined with private equity groups, who are looking to “roll up” in our industry, and social media influencers focused on evangelizing laundromat investments, this trend is putting the laundromat industry in the spotlight like never before.

4. More Challenging Signal-to-Noise Ratio

There have never been more sources of information, input, and commentary about the laundromat industry than there are today. How are potential investors and laundromat professionals best able to sort through the wave of industry conversation coming at them every day?

More than ever, it’s crucial to vet the information you’re consuming to be certain the decisions you make are supported by authoritative sources. More is almost always better – and a louder, broader conversation about the industry brings more perspectives to more people – but never forget to consider the source and to do your own homework when making the big decisions. 

5. The Only Constant is Change

For an industry known for its slow, steady, and predictable nature, recent industry happenings feel like a whirlwind. In addition to the turbulent trends discussed earlier, we’re also observing many of the traditional industry models fading in favor of novel approaches to everything from the equipment distribution model to multi-store management – and from franchise opportunities to consolidation throughout the industry vertical.

“The pace of change will never be as slow as it is today.”

— author and business editor Matthew Bishop

Are the changes we’re seeing a sign of chaos, or simply an industry learning and growing as a result of new perspectives coming forward? And how will the average laundromat professional navigate this pace of change for the benefit of their businesses?

That remains to be seen. But there’s no question that the laundromat industry is not what it used to be – and that’s precisely its strength. It’s become evident that laundromats are evolving quickly and redefining their role in the lives of consumers. From adopting innovative technologies and automation to prioritizing sustainability and customer convenience, these trends have ushered in a new era of modern laundromats.

Contactless payment systems have made transactions smoother and safer, catering to the growing demands of a digital-savvy consumer base. Moreover, the integration of smart technology and mobile apps has revolutionized the laundry process, enabling customers to manage their loads remotely and efficiently.

Personalized customer experiences and value-added services have become paramount in driving customer loyalty. By offering cozy lounges, refreshment stations, and Wi-Fi access, laundromats are transforming into social hubs where community bonding takes place while laundry gets done.

The surge in eco-conscious initiatives, such as energy-efficient equipment and sustainable practices, showcases the laundromat industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship. By reducing their carbon footprint and promoting eco-friendly practices, laundromats are attracting a new wave of environmentally conscious customers.

Undoubtedly, the adoption of advanced data analytics and machine learning has significantly improved operational efficiency for laundromat owners. Optimized processes, predictive maintenance, and better inventory management have allowed businesses to streamline their operations and allocate resources more effectively.

Looking to the future, these five trends I’ve outlined will continue to shape the laundromat industry, driving it forward in response to changing consumer demands and technological advancements. To thrive in this transformative landscape, laundromat owners must stay nimble, adaptable, and forward-thinking. Those who embrace innovation and customer-centricity will undoubtedly stand out in this competitive market.

As the world marches forward, laundromats remain an essential part of everyday life. They are moving beyond their traditional roots, becoming versatile and modern service providers in our fast-paced society. Whether it’s a busy professional, a college student, or a family looking for convenience and efficiency, the laundromat industry continues to cater to diverse needs while embracing a future full of possibilities.

The journey of transformation in the laundromat industry has just begun. As consumers’ expectations evolve, laundromats are ready to meet these challenges head-on with innovation, sustainability, and a focus on elevating customer experiences. The future is bright for those who seize the opportunities and embrace these trends to reshape the laundromat industry for generations to come.

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