The Future of On-Demand Drycleaning Services (Conclusion)

Bruce Beggs |

Deeper understanding of this technology only just being realized

CHICAGO — The concept of offering pickup and delivery as part of one’s drycleaning service certainly isn’t new. But developing a mobile app through which a customer can remotely order drycleaning or laundry service, share preferences and request delivery is a relatively new trend. A number of players have entered the market in hopes of capturing the convenience-driven crowd.

In metropolitan cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, or in commuter-heavy areas like Bakersfield, Calif., these businesses will gladly pick up one’s dirty laundry, have it cleaned, and then return their clothes to them for a price.

The companies behind these drycleaning and laundry service mobile apps either process the goods in their own facility or they partner with a dry cleaner or dry cleaners in the service area to do the cleaning.

American Drycleaner spoke to the developers of three such mobile apps to get a sense of what they offer and where they see on-demand drycleaning services going in the future. Part 1 of this story included comments from WashClub. The others interviewed represent Starchup and Washio.

STARCHUP

Starchup is a new entry among the drycleaning/laundry app start-ups, having gone public in September. CEO Nick Chapleau co-founded it with Dan Tobon. They got the idea from Tobon’s father, whom Chapleau says works in marketing in the Laundromat industry.

Rather than establishing a service that could be seen as being in competition with existing laundries and dry cleaners, Chapleau says, “We knew there were thousands of excellent laundry and drycleaning operators out there in the market who have been doing it for years, might not be able to build a mobile app or might not have that kind of technological ability, but can certainly clean your clothes better than anybody else.”

Starchup focuses on connecting a dry cleaner or laundry with customers it may not otherwise reach.

“The goal is to connect you with customers you might be losing to someone who has better technology. Because of Starchup, you’re able to reach those customers and possibly widen your demographic reach generally by getting a younger, busier customer base who might forgo [dry cleaning] because it’s a pain in the butt but if you’re going to come pick up their clothes at their house, they’ll do it.”

There is no set-up fee. Each Starchup client receives a free trial, then a paid trial before full pricing — a monthly subscription fee plus a “small percentage” of each software-driven transaction — takes effect, according to Chapleau. Clients can choose from among different tiers of service to find a package that suits them.

“We work with all of our vendors to make sure that the service is both economically beneficial to them as well as us so that, in the end, everybody wins,” he says. “We’re really trying to grow the pie for everybody and then share in that value.”

CD One Price Cleaners and Tide (“Tidespin”) are examples of companies that utilize the Starchup platform, according to Chapleau.

“I’ve been very impressed by how savvy and smart a lot of operators out there are,” Chapleau says. “All cleaners have their own way of doing things. You go from one cleaner to the next and they do it a little bit differently. We’ve tried to build in as much flexibility in our platform as we possibly can.”

WASHIO

Washio arrived on the scene in March 2013 after several months of software development. Jordan Metzner and his co-founder came up with the concept based on experiences both had had while living abroad. Metzner owned restaurants in Latin America and, while living in Argentina, would have his clothes washed in a “laundry service center.”

“I had this idea that if people could use the service and get the clothes picked up from their home, it would be an incredibly valuable service,” Metzner says. “When I came back to the States, I realized that by-the-pound laundry service was not something readily available except within New York.”

Washio currently operates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston and Oakland.

It partners with an individual laundry provider and an individual dry cleaner in each market that does the garment cleaning, Metzner says.

“I think that might change over time as our size changes and our geographical spread changes,” he says. “Currently, in most cities we operate in, we really focus on the city center, so all of our service partners are kind of by the center of the city.”

While Washio’s developers have identified convenience as their No. 1 value proposition, Metzner says the Washio service model offers much more, including itemized receipts via e-mail and 24/7 customer support.

“I don’t want to compare ourselves to [ride service] Uber, per se, but Uber isn’t just better because you don’t have to call for the car,” Metzner says. “It’s better for a multitude of reasons. Not having to call for the car is just one of many.”

WHAT LIES AHEAD

Each of these services’ creators believes that the use of technology to provide or enhance on-demand drycleaning and laundry services is really only getting started.

“The customer, in this day and age, they want that kind of instant experience, or at least want the convenience wherever they can find it,” Chapleau says. “We all have less time in the day than we ever have before and anything like this that can help me save time and energy is something that customers like.”

“Technology is changing the world around us,” Metzner says. “Even to this day, [doing] laundry is still a very manual process that has not been automated as many other things in our society have. I think, over time, you’ll see that technology could provide a significant benefit to lowering the cost and allowing the increase of service in the physical location to spread as well.”

“There are phenomenal opportunities on the horizon for those who embrace the technology and the paradigm swings that are happening in our society today,” says Rome. “Whether they like it or not is a another story, but this is the reality of what’s happening.”

To read Part One, go HERE.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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