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Ideas Do Percolate (Conclusion)

Make your store stand out as innovator in community

PEMBROKE, Mass. — New ideas in dry cleaning are far and few between.

I suppose that’s because the work is viewed as so repetitive. It’s the same, day after day, so management just focuses on workload.

Consider the Laundromat industry. In 1983, Phil Akin opened the first Duds ’N Suds in Iowa. The concept was to change a Laundromat from being a grungy chore to being a fun experience, where people would be able to do their laundry as they drank beer at the bar.

The concept grew to 121 outlets, and then the economy did the concept in. But we must admire Akin for creating a new idea in a related industry.

In honor of new ideas, I have some. They aren’t big concepts. They won’t revolutionize the drycleaning industry, as Akin did to the Laundromat world.

But they aren’t currently in practice, as far as I know. They are worth considering to improve your customer interaction. All are geared toward strengthening the customer bond.


Have a monthly drawing of $100 worth of free dry cleaning. Why would you give away your services for free when you don’t have to? Because it promotes customer goodwill.

Also, it generates some interest in your store, it might get non-customers to sign up, and it shows you are willing to be different.

Set up the parameters. All the customers who purchased $30 worth of dry cleaning over the last three months are included in the drawing. It is a good idea to have this limiting condition. Otherwise, one-time customers might win the prize.

Your computer can easily spit out the candidates. Using a paper cutter, you can gang-cut these lists. Put the slips of paper into a large bowl and draw out the winning entry. Another option is to have customers fill out slips when they come in the store. It gives you an opportunity to promote the offering.

Make a ceremony of the event. For instance, the drawing might run at noon on the first Saturday of the month, and everyone is welcome to come in and see if they are the winner.

This monthly activity will generate excitement. Everyone wants to win, and many will come to the event.

You might say, after the drawing, “OK, you didn’t win this month, but you might be the winner next month. You never know.”

In time, you’ll become known as the dry cleaner who likes to create excitement. Yes, you are giving away something, but, in time, you will be surprised at how much more comes back to you.


New customers are the heartbeat of your business. You want to celebrate them. So every three months or so, invite them to come to your shop and meet fellow newbies. Label it “Welcome, new friends.”

Perhaps run the event from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on a weeknight or 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a Saturday. Have a few snacks. Introduce the new customers to each other. Try to find a connection between them, so that they have something to talk about.

What this effort shows is that you care about new accounts. These new clients will appreciate the thought whether they come or not. And those new residents who drop by will be interested in meeting other new residents.

If nothing else, you can shake hands and say, “Thank you for becoming a new customer. We are now a family.”


These customer-focused ideas can make your dry cleaner stand out among the competition. I’m sure you can think of your own ideas. Ask yourself: What creates a bit of excitement?

At your office desk (or wherever you’re most comfortable), with a paper pad (or laptop) in front of you, start to cogitate.

Let ideas brew. Choose the ones that are feasible and that could entice customers and prospects.

Another approach to developing ideas is to barnstorm with your key people. After work one day, spend an hour trying to generate thoughts.

When you come up with events, always promote them. Post signs in the store, place signs around town, and push out e-mail announcements. Get local newspaper coverage to publicize the event. And invite prospects to show them what you offer.

Doing a good job cleaning clothes is your main task. But that alone is not enough. You must make your store stand out in the community as an innovator, a doer, and a progressive dry cleaner. Employing these ideas will do the trick.

Go out there and percolate with innovative ideas.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

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