Photo-Me wants you to do the laundry as you shop

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SUPERMARKET customers could soon wash their duvets and large loads while they shop under plans for a chain of coin-operated laundry machines across the UK.

Photo-Me International is looking at installing laundry machines and dryers alongside its photo booths at supermarkets after successful trials in Europe. The Surrey-based group is “aggressively” rolling out laundry machines in France and Belgium after nearly three years of trials and testing in these countries. It is currently doing market research in the UK and said it would decide whether to launch laundry machines across Britain early in the new year.

The machines have proved popular with consumers on the continent, as they allow very large loads – such as duvets and bedding – to be washed and dried while they do their weekly shopping.

At up to eight euros (£6.45) for the largest load, plus an extra one euro (81p) to dry, the service is cheaper than most dry cleaning services, according to Photo-Me.

It aims to have 3,000 machines in operation by the end of 2015, having already installed more than 180 in France and Belgium, with 160 sold and the remaining 23 operated by the group.

Photo-Me said the machines are expected to be a “significant contributor to profits within three years” and would be less impacted by wider economic conditions.

Details of the laundry roll-out came as Photo-Me reported half-year figures showing a 26 per cent leap in underlying pre-tax profits to £21.5m in the six months to October 31.

In the UK, where it has more than 14,320 photo booths and amusement machines, earnings edged higher to £2.6m from £2.4m a year earlier despite tough trading conditions.

Consumer belt-tightening has seen demand fall for its amusement machines and coin-operated children’s rides, while the recent change in rules handing post offices responsibility for taking driving licence photos has also hit business. Photo-Me said it was auditing its entire estate of UK machines to ensure they are positioned in the best places after finding some were in poor locations.

John Lewis, non-executive chairman, said; “The group has again traded well in what is traditionally its stronger half and delivered a record result, despite a currency headwind.

“A growing estate, tighter management and lower costs have all contributed to this with notable improvements in Germany, Switzerland and Japan and another very good performance in our largest market, France.”