What future for dry cleaning? (Conclusion)

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CHICAGO – When “standard operating procedure” has been as upset as it is in the dry cleaning industry, newcomers to the profession can often find their inexperience to be an asset. They have no expectations based on the way things were before; they just see where it is now and plan accordingly.

For this series, we asked both new and experienced cleaners how they think customers will view the dry cleaning industry in general and what their requirements will be. In Part 1, we spoke with seasoned dry cleaners about their experiences, and in Part 2, we asked a few new to the field what they thought the future held. To conclude this series, we take a look at the experience of an owner who made the transition within the industry, as well as a final look at what could happen.

Focus shift

While the Atlanta Dry Cleaning Connection is not a new business in the industry, Glen Gould, who owns the business with his wife Tammy, had to rethink his business model when the company moved beyond its business model. company in 2019.

“We’re a marketing company with a dry cleaning problem,” Gould says. During the early years of the business, the company outsourced the actual cleaning of materials while focusing on pickup, delivery and marketing. Then, in 2019, when the business had grown too small for its cleaning supplies supplier, the Goulds decided to build a factory and bring all activities back in-house.

“I was fortunate not to have grown up in the industry, and I have the bad luck not to have grown up in the industry,” says Gould. While he may not have the experience multigenerational operators have, this perspective allowed Gould to take a fresh look at the business model from an outside eye.

“A lot of dry cleaners don’t talk to their customers,” he says. “They don’t have a proactive, continuous system where they find out about the day-to-day activities of customers. They don’t react quickly enough to see mode changes, for example.

Gould points out that many younger customers buy more expensive clothes that can be washed at home, but if a cleaner has an ongoing relationship with them, they can explain why they shouldn’t.

“I think the ‘fast fashion’ trend, where you have $ 5 and $ 7 items that we charge more than that to clean, is going to continue,” he says, “but I think I can do a little bit. of the next generation more aware of the danger to the environment, and play on what is important to them. And, even if they buy the microfiber products, we can let them know that we are doing certain things that they cannot do that will mitigate some of the damage they will cause to the environment by using these products.

Facing the future

The question many are asking is whether the post-pandemic future of dry cleaning will revert to pre-pandemic conditions, or are we envisioning a “new normal”?

“I think that has changed for good,” says Kurt Lucero, owner of The Cleanery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Consolidation has already taken effect in the industry, but I think there are a lot of opportunities as well. There are a lot more casual outfits, but there are a lot of housewares, and a lot of our high profile clients still don’t want to deal with it. They still need to clean up their stuff, and I don’t think that will ever change. They might be more at home, but they still want to look and feel good.

“The shirt business is declining and will continue to do so, as the dress code becomes more casual,” says Casey Walker, director of retail operations for Max I. Walker Dry Cleaners & Launderers in Omaha, Nebraska, “but there is potential for dry cleaning. growth. It won’t look like the rooms you used to dry-clean, but there are plenty of high-end casual clothes out there that will look great longer when dry-cleaned. The challenge is to communicate this to customers: “You’ve invested so much in these items. Why are you ruining them by washing and drying them at home? “

As equipment becomes more expensive and customers increase in value, Joe Gagliostro, president of Muldoon Dry Cleaners in Auburn, New York, believes it is urgent to make sure your business is prepared for whatever happens. present to you.

“You have to be able to innovate and modernize,” he says. “You have to stay on top of the machines, and you have to keep going. You have to improve yourself and reinvest in your business, religiously, continuously, to stay valid. ”

For part 1 of this series, click HERE. For part 2, click HERE.


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