After 15 months of being two weeks away from reopening or resuming ‘normal’ business conditions, looking back, it’s still hard to believe that entire economies could be completely shut down in a matter of a day or days. I still feel the cold chill run down my back watching the lights go out in business districts in city after city and sidewalks completely devoid of people. The past 15 months have been an adventure into wilderness I’d never thought would, or could happen. But it has.
Many of you have suffered declines in revenue of 20, 30, 50 percent or more, or worse, a lot of cleaners forced to close. There is light on the horizon. If you have managed to make it this far, it looks like you just might make it. Might…there are no guarantees in business.
But, as vaccines spread, numbers of infections drop and governments lessen rules restricting trade, it’s time to start looking ahead.
What will be the ‘New Normal’?
Well frankly, the new normal is going to be what we make of it. The new normal is long overdue. The ‘old normal’ was very broken. I’m rather glad to see it fading into the rear view mirror.
The new normal is going to be extremely casual focused. With the massive shift away from offices and work from home, fashion has taken a fundamental shift to even more casual. Customers have, or will be rebelling against ‘Pants’. I saw a commercial where one person referred to pants as ‘leg stranglers’. Oh my, that doesn’t bode well.
But, casual focused is not entirely a bad thing. Some say, casual clothing will be the death of the dry cleaning industry. Or, it could be a point where cleaners pivot, embrace and pursue a whole new (well, maybe not new, but another) market.
Casual clothes are out there, in massive if not mountainous quantities. People have been buying inexpensive clothes in staggering quantities for a few decades, and we cleaners have simply turned a blind eye to that market focusing on declining dry cleaning pieces. While the middle class has been taxed out of existence and their disposable incomes have shrunk, many of these folks resorted to wash and wear clothing to do the best they can with what they got. The best they can with what they got has turned into much of this clothing being washed, dried and folded, rarely does it see an iron and pressing. And, it really shows. Take a good look around. How many people do you see wearing clothes that are wrinkled, pressed by floor or dryer? Rumpled is the new finished look.
Society has lowered its standards to the point where disheveled, wrinkled and rumpled passes as acceptable appurtenance and presentation. Does it?
Appliance companies are spending and earning millions of dollars advertising machines to sell their wares. Soap companies are spending and earning millions of dollars advertising soaps and detergents to sell their wares. I have been watching our industries’ other competitors, the appliance manufacturers and soap companies. I noticed that they have identified, targeted and are addressing the same issues I have noticed we cleaners have chosen to ignore.
• Time: nobody has any more time for doing household chores such as laundry. Have you caught the ads showing washers and dryers work on their own, just load and walk away? How about ads for those new ‘shake and stink’ machines that steam and fragrantize clothes? Robotic folding machines?
• Stain removal: buy our detergent, soap and stain removers! Apply, use and they get every stain out, with no effort (the machines do it!) Ahhhh right. But, my wife keeps on buying whatever is advertised because she can’t be bothered to learn proper stain removal techniques (or wait for me to get around to removing those stains).
• No ironing needed: Have you seen how many shirts being sold today claim to not need ironing and pressing? Who has time to iron? Clothing manufacturers have clearly identified that the ultimate market to go after supply clothing to is people who simply want to wash their clothes, put them in the dryer and then pull them out of the dryer and put them right onto a hanger – ready to wear. Ready to wear? Really? Are they? Well, no. But, this is exactly where society has let standards slip, wrinkled and rumpled is the new clean, or is it? One soap company is advertising that stretched out neck lines are ‘too casual’ and ‘too relaxed.’
I know of only one industry that can produce and deliver clothes in like new condition, free of spots or stains, in a ready to wear state, in less than a few minutes’ worth of work and that industry is the dry cleaning industry.
Really, it takes two minutes to fill a bag with clothes. A minute to put that bag out on your front step for a driver to pick up, or a few minutes to drop off at a cleaners. A couple days later, your clothes are returned, cleaned, pressed to a like new appearance and ready to wear. All you have to do is spend a few minutes picking them up at the cleaners, or take the delivered order in and hang them up in your clothes. Hours of work slaving over a washer, dryer and ironing board completely averted. Hours of routine household chores are now done freeing up hours of time to allow the customer to do whatever they want to do.
How much have you spent advertising your service that meets this huge demand within the market place?
How much have you spent retooling your plant to go after profitable processing these mountains of clothes?
Your answer to both questions is likely, not much, it you spent any money at all. The past 15 months have been the perfect opportunity to have been developing new systems and processes to pivot and pursue these clothes. The same old sales pitch of ‘we make you look good – clean, pressed and well dressed’ still applies. People still want to look good. It’s entirely up to us to go after this market, and given where we’ve been for the past 15 months, we need to!