BRUSSELS — European industry association CINET (Comité International de l’Entretien du Textile) recently released an industrywide study that says while drycleaners there face similar challenges as those in the U.S., they can expect a profitable future if they modernize and focus closely on customer needs.
The study says that improved drop-off and pickup options, online support, “green” drycleaning and services targeting business customers will help operators succeed in the years to come. “It is crucial to improve the attractivity of professional textile care (PTC),” says Peter Wennekes, CINET’s CEO, “and the study shows a couple of options on how to do that.”
As in the U.S., professional textile care is on the “downward slope” of its life cycle, the study says. While still enjoying a more formal business environment, Europeans are increasingly likely to have access to home washers and dryers, dress more casually for work, and buy easy-care garments.
Even so, there are opportunities to compensate for the vanishing demand, the study says. Drycleaners can target new commercial clients such as banks, consultancies and nursing homes; embrace “green” processes and earn certifications proving “greenness;” and expand digital marketing initiatives alone or in conjunction with complementary businesses.
Professional textile care has long been seen largely in terms of its production process, the study adds, emphasizing logistics. A competitive drycleaning business of the future will be customer-focused first. “Facilitate the lives of customers, collect items to be cleaned at their homes, and bring them back after cleaning,” is one recommendation.
Online support is another area ripe for improvement. “The customer can demand and prepare cleaning services online, including the planning of pickup and drop-off at his home, review his basket before ordering, and pay online,” the study says. Such functions are proven in industrial laundries, the study notes, and drycleaners “should adapt that approach to their requirements and market opportunities.”
Drycleaning production is seen by consumers as “ecologically questionable,” the study says, but with the controls put in place over the last 20 years, home washers often put greater stress on the environment in terms of total emissions and energy costs. Drycleaners should communicate this fact to managers and consumers, the study says.
Consumer research confirms that quality is the most important factor in the success of drycleaning businesses in Europe, the study says. Communicating achievement in quality is a matter of professional certification, CINET says, but the process must be better adapted to small- and medium-sized businesses.
Effective marketing is also a challenge for small operators, the study adds. More than 45% of customers don’t really know what their drycleaner does, research indicates, and the information gap brings with it challenges in branding and confidence. Direct marketing and cooperative programs can help even small operators get their messages across, and association and suppliers are important partners in this goal.
CINET prepared the report, Textile Care in 5 Years: Chances & Challenges, with the help of the national drycleaning associations in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. For more information, visit CINET online at www.cinet-online.net or e-mail [email protected].
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].