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CityFace (Conclusion)

Connect with your city customers, be a personality in their lives

PEMBROKE, Mass. — Urban dry cleaners have much more competition than most of us have.

Take New York City, for example. There are 2,600 stores, some with multiple locations, so that means about 3,500 to 4,000 outlets. On Lexington Avenue between 82nd and 83rd streets, there are three dry cleaners on one block.

There’s Chen’s Cleaners, Mak’s, and KM Cleaners. Some customers could become so befuddled that they go to Chen’s one week, Mak’s another, and KM Cleaners the third without ever realizing it. That’s a slight exaggeration, but the point is that the competitive marketplace in urban cities is fierce.

With about 36,000 stores in the country, that’s about 7% of the drycleaning operations in a 300-square-mile area. That’s a lot of dry cleaners crowded into a very small space.

Such fierce competition is the rule in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Boston, and Phoenix. Perhaps there aren’t three dry cleaners to choose from on every block, but there are a half-dozen dry cleaners in any marketing area.

The question is, how does the urban operator handle the rivalry?

Develop your clientele through the force of your personality. Relate to each customer in a way that makes the customer comfortable. Make the customer want to come in to see you.

To get to know your customers, ask questions when they enter the store. Find out a bit about them.


Armed with some basic information, formulate how to connect:

To a busy mother you might say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

To a no-nonsense businessperson: “We’ll have your clothes ready tomorrow morning.”

To a fashionable person: “You’ll look like a million dollars after we get through cleaning your clothes.”

To an artist: “We’ll handle the small stuff. Do some great work today.”

Humor, especially self-deprecating humor, is always a plus. To a new customer, say something like: “My competitor down the street can’t even spell clean.” That will get a chuckle.

To a regular account, intone, “It’s Tuesday, and here you are. What would I do if you didn’t show up?”

Always offer a compliment. Be sincere. Make the customer feel good:

“Love that outfit, Nancy.”

“How did you get so tan, Mr. Aubrey, sitting under a coconut tree in the Bahamas?”

“You’re busy, Mr. Caruthers, and that’s our city’s spirit.”

Comment on the passing scene to appropriate customers:

“Traffic is enough to drive us all crazy.”

“This city’s administration is making me lose my appetite.”

“The train system in this city isn’t working. We need a new transportation head.”

Speak easily and comfortably with all your customers. In urban settings, it is critically important to make yourself a lively personality — to be that face they won’t forget.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

creepy guy revised web

Laugh along with urban customers, like this client with an expressive face, or hash over events of the day. Make city clients want to come back to you. (Photo: Johan Walter Bantz/Unsplash)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].