After weathering the storm of Covid, successive drops in demand due to folks working from home, not to mention the ever changing ever increasing (or should I say decreasing slide into) casual dress fashions, it’s an exciting time to be in the drycleaning business. Really, it is.
While there has been a dramatic narrowing of the entire industry going on for a few decades, driving owners into lower prices and lower profit margins. Yet some owners have seen their businesses grow and flourish as they added price increases and services driving their profits up. Which cleaner are you?
No doubt, Covid has caused or accelerated changes in our society. Certain trends that had been developing pre-Covid, such as online shopping, have accelerated to near light speed during the past couple years. People have embraced ‘stay at home’ conveniences like never before.
Case in point, I was parked outside a local coffee shop waiting to pick up my wife from an appointment, and I watched the same food delivery guy make three pick-ups for delivery within 45 minutes picking up a tray of coffee cups and boxes of doughnuts. An hour later, I saw the same delivery driver at a nearby 7-11 picking up a couple Slurpees for delivery. I simply had to talk with him and learn more about his ‘Gig.’ This delivery driver told me he sticks primarily to the downtown core, and he is busy pretty much his entire shift just delivering coffee from morning until afternoon to people inside of the office towers. When I quizzed him about the Slurpees, he said it’s not uncommon for residents in the nearby neighborhoods to order and pay a $7.95 delivery fee on top of the $9.00 cost of beverages, PLUS tip! In fact, he has regulars who order almost on a daily or every other day basis. I thought to myself, ‘That would be the day I ordered a delivery service for a coffee, doughnut or Slurpee.’
I should have known better than to say, ‘Never say never.’
I needed a very specific item to complete delivery of a new product I have created (more on that in upcoming articles). I had looked in every local store and simply could not find what I was looking for. I know this item exists, but not one local retailer stocks it. Frankly, I was frustrated. So, I took to searching online, and sure enough, multiple suppliers offered exactly what I was looking for. Of course, most businesses offering what I wanted are in the USA. This would incur a large shipping fee, exchange rates into USD, plus customs and duties, making my purchase nearly double what it would normally cost. And take weeks to arrive. Yuck. But I noticed there was an Amazon Canada listing offering the item I wanted. I signed into my Amazon account, placed the order, and was immediately offered a free trial of Amazon Prime two-day delivery. Well, it was a time sensitive project, so I’m convinced, let’s try the Prime delivery. And, sure enough, two days later, there is a box with a smile sitting waiting for me at my front door.
The first hit on the crack pipe is always free. And, I admit, I drew deep, as did my wife and my son. Christmas came, and again, selection in the local stores was not just dismal, it was pathetic. I’d been spending some time looking for unique, interesting gifts, and my Christmas gift bookmark list was oh so jolly. This year was the first year ever I did not step into a retail store to go Christmas shopping, my entire gift list was delivered to my front door, all I had to do was wrap it.
I popped into one of the grocery stores I frequent. Gone was my coffee shop off the front door. Half the store was torn up under construction. Almost every aisle had been relined or moved. I could not find the usual specific items I usually buy. The entire shopping trip was tainted, and I returned home not a happy camper. Stomping my way into the house, I stopped at my postal box and retrieved the flyers. Right on the top was an invitation from one of the ‘Premium’ grocery stores I rarely frequent inviting me to try their online shopping service and enjoy FREE delivery of my groceries on my first online order. I brewed up a cup of cappuccino, sat down at my laptop, logged in and in 20 minutes I had selected what I wanted, put in my credit card and pressed enter. Three hours later, my doorbell rang, a uniformed driver was unloading bags of my groceries from his branded van. He slipped on some neat and tidy booties over his footwear, and put my groceries into my cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer. All week long, every time I reached into the fridge and drew out a tomato, onion, or lettuce, I marveled at the skill of whomever had picked out my produce for me. And best of all, I sat on my butt and did other things while someone else did the mundane chore of shopping for me, and the additional cost? It was a pittance compared to the freedom I feel being free of driving all over town to find that certain pizza bottom, going to store number two for that special pizza sauce, and store number three for that special premium cheese (Yes, I’m rather particular about my pizza).
You might think I’m kind of a freak. Nope. In fact, there are more and more people like me discovering the joy of freedom from household chores every day. I’ve spent years working my buns off for other folks in my drycleaning plant. I’ve worked hard to get myself into a position where I can enjoy a few pleasures in life, and frankly, I don’t mind paying for the convenience. Some days, I find it easier and more time efficient to pay someone else to do these routine time sucking chores for me, leaving me free to focus on other tasks and work that pays much better than the savings of doing chores myself.
If I had to go back to the beginning of my drycleaning career now, knowing what I now know, I’d be hard at work figuring out how I could make it so much easier for my customers to do more business with me. How could I be serving my customer making it easier to do business with me than spending hours doing laundry at home themselves? How could I make it easy and affordable to have my shop pick up, clean, press, fold and deliver, maybe even put away, anything wearable, anything made of fabric, within my customer’s home? How can I endear my services to make life one less chore, one less bore and not for a whole lot more (than it would cost to do it themselves)?
We have become a society of convenience, tap into it. And, I leave you with one final thought: We are experiencing one of the largest transfers of wealth between generations, EVER. Every day, entire estates of assets and wealth are being transferred, which means there are pools of prosperity unlike we have ever seen before. You’ve seen the swell in travel, restaurants and leisure lifestyle. What are you doing to adapt your business to garner your fair share (or more than your fair share) of that convenience lifestyle money?