转载自:中外洗衣 美国Alliance洗衣系统公司 Randy F. Radtke
韩国的SELFIA概念使店的规模保持得很小，设备配置做到了不能再少的程度。典型的加盟店包括3台Speed Queen（速比坤）30磅洗衣脱水机，2-3台Speed Queen（速比坤）30磅烘干机，3-4台Speed Queen（速比坤）高效H型前装料洗衣机。
Turning Dividends: Vended laundries present opportunity for investors
What follows is part one in a four-part series about investing in vended laundries. The piece aims to give a snapshot of the opportunities, including different approaches to the business, for investors. Part I focuses on providing an overview of the investment and some of the basics behind getting started.
Laundry is one of the most basic needs we have. While there may be cheaper options to perform the task — small-load, in-home machines and drying on a clothesline or balcony — there’s also the understanding that time is one of our most precious commodities. Knowing this, investors in the United States as well as other countries have for years placed value in coin laundries.
“Clean clothes are a necessity of life,” said Jay McDonald, a member of the Coin Laundry Association board of directors, who has almost 30 years in the laundry business at Alliance Laundry Systems. “People are concerned about their appearance, want to look good and be successful.”
“What I think is good about this type of investment is laundry is a necessity,” said Lee Wilson, vice president of international sales at Alliance. He added that when larger bulky items such as bed covers or quilts are factored in, vended laundries have a solid revenue base for investors.
A major selling point for coin laundries is an obvious time savings element. Larger capacity machines offer customers the opportunity to complete a necessary task in far less time than at home. In the United States, an average household generates approximately eight loads of laundry a week. To complete one load takes more than an hour. By contrast, utilizing larger-capacity vended laundry equipment can trim almost eight hours of weekly laundry work at home into about an hour.
“You’ve got a significant time savings,” McDonald said.
Opportunity for Investors with Vision
While China may not be seeing many vended laundries launched, Kitty Zhang, Alliance regional sales manager serving the Chinese market, predicts opportunity exists.
“Having not, means a chance to fill in,” she said. “The experience in the United States cannot be copied 100 percent, but absolutely is a reference for those who want to start this business.” Entrepreneurs need only look at the number of American retailers descending on China as well as the prevalence of other Western influences for hints that the vended laundry concept can be successful.
In Taiwan, Zhang said, coin laundries are beginning to grow in number. The start in this market came largely from equipment distributors who saw a need and financed their own stores.
Andrew Kan, an Alliance Laundry Systems regional sales manager serving Asia, said a South Korean distributor has seen great success developing small-scale vended laundries. Korea Hot Fix (KHF) started with a few trial stores a couple years ago. Today, the distributor has developed the concept into the SELFIA franchise model, and has more than 40 stores.
In this model, KHF sells the machines in addition to instructing new franchisees on how to run the business. Kan added that the concept has been so successful that other competitors are trying to copy the approach.
Vended laundries are attractive investments for a number of reasons, one of which is they are cash businesses. Along with that, owners receive payment up front for the service they provide. Labor is provided by the customers, meaning owners have, in most models, no employees and thus less management responsibilities than many other ventures.
An additional benefit is that the business has a fairly predictable cost structure. “It’s a relatively controlled cost to investors,” Wilson said. “You can literally sit down and figure out your costs,” he said. Expenses include rent, utilities and maintenance as well as equipment payments. Wilson said investors then can compare the costs against models that predict revenue generation.
And for owners committed to running their businesses in a progressive manner, those predictions quickly can turn into reality.
“It’s still a venture with a significant return on investment,” McDonald said, adding that in order to achieve those returns, owners must be active in the business. “It does require involvement and it doesn’t happen by itself; the owner must manage the business.”
The beginnings of the work start with establishing the viability and size of the investment and investigation of costs.
“It takes a little higher caliber investor,” McDonald said.
The American business model normally requires investors to put up 25 percent of the cost of the project. While this could be a limiting factor for investors given the difficulty of getting a business loan in the current personal finance system in China, laundry equipment distributors are exploring opportunities through working with leasing companies.
Another limiting factor, Zhang said, can be costs of renting store-front space. Downtown rental rates combined with needing the first three-months rent up front and entering into long-term leases can be too much of a risk for a new venture.
Lease terms vary, but in the United States most vended laundries are based on a 10-year lease with two, five-year extension options.
“People hesitate to invest if they are not sure this business will make money,” she said.
Wilson, however, is quick to point out that the newness of the vended laundry concept in China actually may be a benefit to investors.
“You can make it expensive and not expensive to get in,” he said of limiting investment costs through smaller stores. That equates to less equipment and as a result being able to get by with less space to rent.
Wilson added that stores can range from as small as six washers and eight dryers up to 50 washers and 60 dryers or more.
Smaller stores, in fact, have been an extremely successful formula in markets such as the United Kingdom. “You can go pretty small and still be making a living off it,” Wilson said.
The SELFIA concept in Korea keeps store size small and equipment to a minimum. The typical franchise includes two to three Speed Queen 30-pound washer-extractors, two to three Speed Queen 30-pound tumblers and three to four Speed Queen high-efficiency Horizon frontload washers.
Location Ranks Tops
Anyone connected to the vended laundry business knows that while quality equipment is a must, location, and location alone, is the prime factor in success.
“Location, location, location,” Wilson said of the three most important considerations for new investors. “Pick the wrong location and it will not work,” he said, adding that distributors many times can offer significant input in helping new investors select a site.
“Though there’s never any guarantees, generally if the location is correct the laundry will survive,” McDonald said.
Investors need to look for a place close to major housing areas with high population densities. Other considerations on location include proximity to other businesses and high traffic — pedestrian or vehicle — sites.
“We believe more and more coin laundry shops will surface in medium and large cities in China,” Kan said. “This is because of the rising incomes of the middle class and the lack of time for young working couples to do the household chore of laundry. Much traveled investors will realize that there are opportunities to introduce coin laundries in the huge Chinese market.”
The University Option
Close proximity to a university can be a sound location as well. Zhang said many universities offer homestyle washers but no dryers. Opportunity thus also exists in partnering with such institutions and utilizing campus card systems for payment of washer usage and drying time.
Investors hoping to reduce financial risk and capital outlay could benefit with a possibly lower rental fee for space.
“Universities will not invest themselves, but they are happy if somebody would set up a vended laundry, because it helps them offer a better life condition to students,” Zhang said, adding that the commercial washers and dryers also could help busy students complete their laundry chores quicker.
The mutually beneficial relationship nets investors a sizable customer base and universities have an additional amenity to offer to students.
With a location identified, investors next will need to move forward with firming up their business plan.
In part II of the series, we’ll examine the initial steps to startup, including establishing a timetable, finding a distributor and other suppliers.