Reportage – Self-service, the evolution towards a multiservice quality model


The market of self-service laundries in Italy has grown so sharply over the last years that today, we can say we are taking time to reflect. The current photo of Italian self-service reality is: a mature market but not saturated yet. We are looking at changes in demand and, consequently, in offer. We are leaving behind the years when an investment in a self-service business, a micro-activity really, was considered a tool to construct an extra income in order to contrast the economic crisis.

Today, things are different: we are relying on other people’s profession as far as housework goes, e.g. works that we used to considered as strictly domestic activities. We have started searching for more specialized, quality services, a sort of Darwinism that awards a more accurate and thorough service, more sophisticated technology and comfortable environment. The coin-op market of washing and drying in Italy is going towards a model that is already present in other countries where extremely interesting solutions are a combination of primary services with a series of collateral offers that aim at satisfying clients’ need of aggregation and conviviality. In many countries, while waiting for a washing machine and a dryer to finish, it is possible to enjoy a comfortable environment where one can chat with other clients, read a book, watch a film, have a drink or do physical exercises at the gym. A success of a self-service laundry basically depends on its geographical position and on the customer base of that particular area.  While evaluating existing businesses, it is wellknown that in order to be successful, it is necessary to carry out a thorough prior geo-marketing analysis that allows to identify the best location, to get to know the habits and needs of the inhabitants and finally, to make the communication strategy effective. Let us however, consult the companies that work in the wrinkles of the self-service market that has developed following quite different vectors, from private businesses to franchising.

Eugenio Boni, the Sales Director at Italclean S.r.l., a company that produces washing machines in San Giorgio di Piano near Bologna, is telling us how he sees the self-service market beyond the national borders. “Self-service has had a great boom  and today, the Italian market is quite mature even if there still are some perspectives of growth. In other countries instead, there is a high margin for growth, e.g. in the east of Europe and the Far East. One of the problems we have witnessed, especially abroad, is payment management. In some countries (especially the developing ones), “the attractive” coin exchanger puts the business at risk of a robbery. We often see self-service shops with additional auxiliary personnel to assist and control clients. Let us consider that in some countries, the local currency has no value while in some others, it is necessary to set a credit card payment only. In some African countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, we are asked to set payment system that would only allow clients to pay by a smartphone. Among our top “self” range, there is the AV 20 washing machine, the smallest of the range: a 9 kg machine, yet, the most successful one. We also manufacture washing machines with bigger capacity. 5 years ago, we started producing stacked self-service machines (model STX) where a washing machine and a dryer are stacked one above the other, which optimizes the space available in a shop. The added value of Italclean is represented by a closed-circuit dryer. Normally, a dryer needs an external air exhaust yet, in some cases it is not possible to have it.

Marco Niccolini, the Sales Director at Renzacci S.p.A., based in Città di Castello, is telling us about the proposals by Renzacci for the self-service. “Renzacci is focusing on systems that allow for an efficient interaction between the owner of the laundry and the machines; and between the user and the selected machine using extremely advanced programs that the technology has put to our disposal. We offer a management program for self-service laundries called Intellectus that allows the owner of a business to have a complete program for management, monitoring and interaction (but it also gives the possibility to carry out ad hoc promotions). The new energy and water saving machines, the closed-circuit dryers (that allow to avoid the installation of the costly vacuuming hoods) and the multi-media development constitute the pillars of the self-service by Renzacci”.

Girbau, a multinational company that offers innovative laundry solutions can count on six production centers, 1000 employees and a commercial network present in 100 countries. The headquarters of the company is based in Vic near Barcellona. One of the production and commercial fields that Girbau has focused on is self-service laundry. “As far as our self-service machines are concerned, we have developed a new WEB PLATFORM SAPPHIRE thanks to which it is possible to monitor, manage and configure a laundry.
The system allows to constantly monitor all the laundry processes, says Massimo Scatto, the Sales Director at Girbau Italia. For example, it is possible to analyze the time of the day when there is less traffic and consequently, develop ad hoc promotions so that clients will come to the laundry during those particular moments of the day. It is possible to visualize every machine in real time, and should there be a problem, it is possible to see the technical data, the possible causes for troubleshooting and the solutions. We are constantly improving the system which will allow the clients, once it is fully operational, to remotely activate a washing or a drying program and, when necessary, to set the machine in an “out of service” mode from remote as well”.

“Over the last twenty years, the self-service market in Italy has increased very sharply which has been reflected by the opening of many shops characterized by the presence of few machines (5/7 machines on average) and by traditional payment systems (tokens, coins or cash registers), claims Vittorio Maglione, the Country Manager Italia at Alliance Laundry System, a multinational laundry machines producer with its Italian headquarters in Brescia. He adds, “we have now entered the second phase where fewer shops are being opened but they are larger (10/14 machines on average) aimed at investors whose objective is to obtain the economic return of the investment. Today,
our machines are fully managed from remote. What is more, the integration of payment systems with an “app”, allows not only to pay but also to book a laundry machine.
Both the investor and the user of a self-service laundry want bigger shops, comfort and advanced technology applied to both the technicality of machines and their management. The technology, available with our Primus and Speed Queen brands, allow to satisfy the market requests in the best and most accurate way”.

Detewash from Vanzago near Milan offers integrated laundry systems for industrial realities, hotels, residences and nursing homes. “We have been operating on the market for thirty years. We are also exclusive sales representatives of Girbau, in particular in Lombardy, Liguria and Piemonte regions, says Fulvio Balbi, the Sales Director at Detewash. As far as self-service goes, we have embraced a flexible philosophy. We can set up a turnkey shop entirely but if a client prefers to choose other operators for plant installation, we will supply the machines only. Working with quality products, we are oriented towards important investments able to guarantee high standard services. It is difficult to trace a scenario for the future. We can say that self-service is in an indeterminate phase now, where the competition is tough but where the capacity and willingness to invest can make a difference. The selection and re-qualification of the market are currently in progress”.

Stenilio Morazzini, the General Manager of Montega S.r.l., a producer of laundry detergents, claims that “self-service laundries are crucial a far as detergents go due to a more and more extended and multiform development of the territory. Temperatures and Footprint are the key words in a “Green” request of the market where Montega turns out to be a winning choice once again. For this reason, the product lines by Montega have been developed to complete the company’s market offer and make the clients satisfied at 360 degrees. The Top Level Nature detergent and the Soft Nature softener with plant origin surfactants and hypoallergenic scents, the Clean Sg Nature last generation degreaser to remove the most difficult stains, but also the additives that have been developed and studied specifically for the recovery of garments that otherwise would be disposed of. Thanks to their innovative products range, Montega has confirmed to be the first choice also for the self-service laundries”.

Francesco Ciaponi, the General Manager of Aga C.O.M., a company based in Massa Carrara that offers turnkey selfservice laundry services, is describing the range of commercial activities by AGA C.O.M. “We are present all over the world. Over the last months, we have opened numerous laundries in Spain, Portugal and we have also recently arrived in Russia. 85% of our turnover is realized abroad and 15% in Italy. There are margins for growth in Italy but only through highly specialized, outstanding quality projects. We offer keys in hand laundries and our strength is customization at 360 degrees. We guarantee a fully customized service to everyone. On our website, “speedy wash” presents a graphic model that through the customization of a laundry, it allows the clients to virtually visualize all the details of how their laundry would be set up. The self-service of today needs to become a place that offers high quality service including dedicated programs. With the new programming and a 7-inch touch screen, a laundry owner can customize, for example 20 programs for a washing machine: a program for everyone. We are providing self-service laundries with similar functions to those found at a traditional laundry. Witnessing the “evolution of the species”, coin ops are becoming the real multiservice aggregation centers just like the laundry we have recently set up in the
Eixaple district in Barcelona.

by Marzio NAva