JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jess Culpepper, president and general manager of Culpepper Cleaners in San Antonio, Texas, says his family considers itself fortunate to have had the opportunity to operate the business for over 100 years.
Many changes have occurred during that time, and currently the drycleaning industry is experiencing “major challenges” with declining volume for over a decade nationally, he says.
“To survive, many of us have found other sources of revenue.”
And that’s where cleaning The House — household items such as comforters and linens — comes in. But that’s just the start. Add route business, along with other services such as cleaning shoes, hats and wedding dresses to discover the full-service garment care pro inside you.
EVERY EXTRA SERVICE DESERVES ADDED COMMITMENT
Michael P. Harris, owner of Oceanside Cleaners in Jacksonville, says his business celebrated its 30th anniversary in March with 80 employees.
He remarks that Oceanside is in the people business, not only for its customers but its employees and vendors. It markets to a consumer who is interested in service and quality: “When we take your garment/textile, we take ownership.”
During the Great Recession in 2008, he decided to add an onsite division in which Oceanside would go into homes and businesses to clean drapes, blinds, upholstery and rugs. Harris says it continues to be a very successful service for the business.
At the same time, the dry cleaner began offering a full-service shoe repair. Shortly thereafter, a wedding dress division was created to handle pre- and post-wedding services. Harris says Oceanside does around 600 dresses per year.
In 2015, Oceanside “dove” into the wash-dry-fold business, and it has grown substantially, according to Harris. Added to the tailoring business that it has always offered, the dry cleaner provides a one-stop shopping experience for garment care.
“We also do a lot of restoration work. For example, a glass of wine spilled on a cashmere sweater, vintage items like all types of households, obviously wedding gowns, christening gowns, shoes, hats. Basically anything that has fabric.”
How you price your services is highly important, he says: “So we do a ton of measuring to find out what it costs to do these services and build in an appropriate profit that will not only cover expenses but put money aside for future equipment purchases, training, and marketing.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, his operation has been extremely busy with its at-home services, Harris says.
“We offer not only what I mentioned but outdoor cushions. We market them in-store and through email/text, but it amazes me how many customers do not know about them.”
You can expand not only on what you clean but how you bring it into your store.
“Pickup and delivery, pickup and delivery, pickup and delivery — especially now,” emphasizes Harris.
“We’ve concentrated on converting counter to route in light of the current pandemic, which has been really successful, especially to the bottom line. Without the call to deliver, the inventory would still be at our stores and monies would not be collected.”
Oceanside has also expanded its locker system from eight to 32 lockers at its Ponte Vedra location because of increased touchless service with drop-off and pickup.
“If you can offer as many services as possible, it creates a one-stop shopping experience, and if you focus on customer and employee culture, you will make price irrelevant.”
The key is trying to sell more services to current customers, Harris believes.
“We have had great success with calculated promotion plans, which include email through BeCreative, counter handouts, flyers on orders, signs in lobbies, mass texts within our POS, signs on street, website updates, all of these on one topic scheduled at the same time.”
But make sure the customer accounts have all of their email addresses and cellphone numbers or it can hamper your success.
An example of a recent campaign: “We did a wash-dry-fold promotion that we executed (through) all the previous channels of communication for one month. (Our daughter) Clare schedules all of these ahead of time and keeps track of it on a Google calendar.”
It’s important to measure all promotions in order to determine their value.
“We spend time training our office (staff) on asking (customers) how they heard about the promotion so we can determine which one of these channels works best,” Harris says. “The wash-dry-fold (campaign) was a complete success that affected sales by 30%.
“We’re in the people business, so make sure you have the right people in these positions, especially when you touch the customer, and train, train, train. Nothing is worse than getting a customer to call on one of our services and the CSR doesn’t know anything about it.”
Oceanside Cleaners has daily huddles, weekly manager meetings, and monthly customer service events.
“Our culture is second to none but we work hard at it,” says Harris. “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers.”
Be open to handling all of your clients’ needs, and to new avenues of business, too.
Harris says he enjoys taking care of customers and seeing them come in with an alteration before moving over to drop-off drycleaning and then shoe repair.
“The bottom line is we don’t want to say no. You have heard it many times: ‘Yes, now, what’s the question?’ Also, if we start getting a lot of calls on a particular cleaning service, we will start offering it. For example, we have considered pressure washing, and in-home maid service.”
He concludes with a point about the importance of dedication: “I can’t express enough on these profit centers that our staff has to take ownership on what the service is: how much, how long it takes, and basically setting the expectation for the customer so that there are no surprises.”
And by doing it right and expanding services like Oceanside Cleaners and Culpepper Cleaners have, you can take more profits to the house!
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected] .