GS Retail partners with laundry service franchise to make foray into self-service laundry market

By Park Sae-jin Posted : January 27, 2023, 10:54 Updated : January 27, 2023, 10:54

[Gettyimages Bank]

SEOUL -- GS Retail, the operator of South Korea's convenience store franchise GS25, partnered with Cleantopia, a domestic laundry service franchise operator, to make a foray into the country's unmanned self-service laundry market. This is the first time for a major South Korean conglomerate to enter the laundry market where the majority of businesses are operated by private owners.
According to the state statistical information service, South Korea's laundry market which stood at about 3.5 trillion won ($2.8 billion) in 2020 is rapidly growing to reach 7.2 trillion won in 2028, thanks to an increasing number of unmanned self-laundry services. Laundry services that offer pick-up and delivery service in the morning and night were commonly seen in local residential areas. Such laundries also provided delicate reform and repair services for suits and other clothing.
However, South Korea's laundry market which was previously dominated by local laundries is now being overrun by unmanned Laundromats targeting single-person households. According to the interior ministry, there were 22,472 laundries across the country as of December 2021, but the number decreased to some 20,400 in 2022. There were some one thousand unmanned laundromats in 2021 and the number increased to more than four thousand in 2022. Laundromats were favored by busy customers who wished to wash a large number of clothes within an hour.
GS Retail said that the company partnered with Cleantopia to offer a self-laundry service to test an unmanned laundry service in a GS25 convenience store located in western Seoul on January 27. When customers leave their clothes inside an unmanned laundry cabinet, Cleantopia will pick up the clothes, wash and dry them, and leave the washed clothes inside the cabinet.
GS25 said the company will gradually increase the number of stores with self-laundry cabinets to other GS25 stores and affiliated supermarkets, adding the cooperation between the retail giant and laundry service operator will create synergy by combining two services -- grocery shopping and laundry.
Cleantopia is one of South Korea's largest laundry service operators with more than three thousand manned laundries and one thousand unmanned Laundromats. The company also offers various laundry services such as a pick-up service for busy working people, a one-day laundry service, and a premium care service for high-end apparel.
Meanwhile, due to the social distancing campaign that was rolled out to slow down the spread of COVID-19, mobile-based laundry pick-up services are also garnering popularity among young consumers in their 20s and 30s. Washswat, a laundry pick-up service startup launched in 2015, recorded sales of about 1.6 billion won in 2021. Customers can order the pick-up and return service by using a mobile app. To maximize its washing capability to 30,000 clothes per day, the startup uses two automated smart factories.  
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