It’s coming up to that time of year again, lights, gifts, festivities and good will to all. Our plants should be busy with party clothes and folks getting ready for family gatherings. But during this hectic time, I’d like to remind everyone, be grateful.
You have a business that provides a valuable service assisting people to look their best. What you do cannot be duplicated at home. Let’s recognize it for what it is; a professional service that is still in demand. Be grateful.
We have a core group of customers that cover our monthly obligations to our landlord we lease from, the utilities that enable our lights to come on, water to wash and cool, provide wages to pay our staff we employ and hopefully a profit left over to provide a return on investment and encourage us to continue in our work. Be grateful.
If your business is struggling to bring in new customers, you are losing customers as fast as you get them, and you are just barely covering all your bills, be grateful. Be grateful for struggling to barely break even? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Struggle is good. Struggle is learning. Struggle is opportunity. Opportunity to change.
Recently new numbers about the dry cleaning industry were released showing that the number of dry cleaning businesses in operation has declined. While it’s never nice to hear a cleaner has been forced to close their doors, the culling of those who have no business being in this business are being forced out of the business. How do you tell if you are one of the ones who could be forced out of business? Well, it’s a simple test, just answer this question honestly: what are you willing to change in your business? If you couldn’t answer with one thing, you may as well call a broker today.
Struggle is good for you. Struggle teaches you to be innovative. Struggle teaches you to have patience, to develop creativity, or inflicts incredible amounts of pain as you remain stubbornly in place. Learn to embrace it for it will improve you, or kill you.
Doing what I do has allowed me to work with cleaners of all kinds. Some cleaners have been extremely successful and successful decades before they faced hard times and struggle. Some cleaners are just starting out with no customers and massive debt. And then there are all the cleaners in between. The cleaners who I work with best are those with an open mind and are not resistant to change, and are excited to try new innovative ways to attract business in addition to deploying some tried and true old school business practices that many businesses today have forgotten about.
Finding customers today has become a complex process, or it can be so simple that you may be bored or scoff at its simplicity.
Let’s talk about simplicity for a few moments.
Finding customers can be extremely easy. You likely have a list of them in your point of sale system. Your best prospect for more business is the customer that you recently served or already have. On the surface it may appear that you are not going to grow your business simply by serving customers you already have, but you would be mistaken. The customer you have is very likely to do even more business with you; all you have to do is ask. It’s a common misconception that you are getting all the business you can out of the customers you have.
Many customers sort their clothes into two categories:
1) Clothes that need cleaning and pressing now
2) Clothes that ‘I’ll wear one more time’ before sending them to a cleaner.
Many of the general public tend to think of dry cleaning as a necessary evil, an expense and expensive service they don’t enjoy paying for because they already paid for their clothes, and then again paying to get their clothes back again at the dry cleaner. Heck. I feel the same way paying for gas, insurance and oil changes on my Jeep Grand Cherokee every time I take it to a gas station, pay my monthly insurance, and take it to the dealership for service. So, many of our dry cleaner customers pick and choose what clothes really need to be serviced, and then decide what other clothes can wait and be worn a little more before they come in for cleaning. Those clothes that will have to wait and won’t be coming in are lost pieces and revenue. Those lost pieces and lost revenue are easily enticed to be included if you can make a well timed offer with a limited time offer to create scarcity.
Speaking of well-timed offers, some of you may be shocked to discover your point-of-sale system can show you which one of these customers is overdue for a return visit to you. All you have to do is sort your customer list by date of last pick up. Any customer who has not been back in with an order within the last six weeks is a highly qualified prospect for another order.
Why six weeks? Well, let’s take a look at customer spending patterns. Most customers with reasonable demand for dry cleaning services tend to wear an item of drycleanable clothing at least once a week, perhaps twice a week (depending on the size of their wardrobe). If they wore one certain pair of pants once a week, after six weeks they would have worn them six times. After six wearings, I’m certain the crease has softened dramatically, and people being what people are, they have sweated in them with fabric absorbing that sweat, and bacteria will have begun to feed on that moisture starting to smell just a bit. Perhaps one or two wearings, but, eww….gross. So, timing being everything, a six week inactive customer is prime pickings for an invitation to return.
Some of the more astute cleaners out there might be thinking: If six weeks is the peak point where a customer needs to return to a cleaner with their clothes, what should we make such customers an offer? They should be coming in any way! Sound reasoning, I’ll agree, but at the same time, the clock is ticking. I’ll concede one could wait another two weeks to see if the customer returns on their own volition, but that’s a whole 14 days, waiting. Or to put it another way, a whole pay period you are paying your staff and expenses while the customer suffers no pain (other than a little inconvenient smell) denying you work and cash flow.
Yes, there is a price for waiting. The elasticity of demand from your peak use dry cleaning customers might surprise you. A typical customer on a six week buying cycle can be easily enticed to shorten time between visits by one to two weeks. How does that affect you, the cleaner? Well a customer with an order every six weeks makes 8.6666 trips per year. If you can shorten time between orders by one week, that’s now 10.4 trips to the cleaner per year. Assuming the size of order is $17.50 per order, you have increased annual sales for that customer by $35.00, or an increase of 23 percent. Multiply that by 200 to 500 customers, and that’s an extra $7,000 plus added to your bottom line (and perhaps your profits and take home pay). If your average order is higher, and your customer count of inactive customers is greater, that’s even more money simply slipping through your fingers.
So, at this time of year, I’m grateful for you. I’m grateful for an opportunity to serve business owners who are seeking assistance to make changes within their business. I’m grateful for all of you who struggle to make a better business, a better life, for their staff, their communities, their families and themselves. If I can be of service, please reach out.