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antons recycling 1 web

Organize operational items like recycle stations, as shown here at Anton’s in Boston, to remove the clutter and showcase your attention to detail. (Photo: Anton's)

clothesline cleaners 1 web

A fresh coat of paint will improve the look of a store with minimal expenditure and effort. (Photo: Clothesline Cleaners, Boise, Idaho)

margarets cleaners 1 web

Upgrade the packaging and display finished inventory for a more “retail” environment and a reminder of your specialty services. (Photo: Margaret’s Cleaners, California)

jim masseys 1 web

It is not essential to have an end location in a strip center for a drive-thru. You can take an inline space and remove the front and back walls, as Jim Massey’s Cleaners, Montgomery, Ala., did. (Photo: Jim Massey’s Cleaners)

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Is It Time for a Facelift?

Most drycleaning stores—even if thought of as ‘new’—need to be rejuvenated

SAN FRANCISCO — If you ever watch TV, you have encountered the ads for “Lifestyle Lift.” They seem to have blanketed every available time space and every target viewer profile over the age of 15.

These ads are a reminder that a personal “refresh” may be desirable and that it need not cost a fortune. The same is true of drycleaning stores. Most of them—even if you still think of them as “new”—need to be rejuvenated.

In the world of retail, with which your profitable clients are extremely well familiar, facilities need to be enlivened regularly. This process of revitalization can range from the simple, minimal weekly display rotation to a thorough renovation involving full architectural design and construction.

The regular weekly display with the related attention to detail shows your clientele that you are unique and aware of fashion trends and the varying product and service needs of your client base.

The periodic full renovation (regardless whether the design is classic or “leading edge”) is a sign of your business’ longevity and awareness of the changing retail and cultural landscape. Your chosen design also reflects your awareness of your customers’ sense of fashion and style.

Since few of your competitors will pursue either of these recommended updates, décor changes are a simple way for you to differentiate your business in the sea of cleaners that populate most markets.


Everyone contends with budget constraints but design need not be prohibitively expensive. Planning for minor expenditures regularly, and for larger efforts on a specific schedule, will keep your stores always looking fresh in an affordable way.

The following examples provide insight into the spectrum of enhancements that might be typical.

Start with a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning and then maintain that level of cleanliness on a daily basis. This is the foundation for daily maintenance and continually making the best impression.

Clean, dust, polish, mop and vacuum, and then do it all again for good measure.

Stripping the floor of surface marks and wax will restore its look without the cost of replacement.

Remove all lint (including that found on, in or under the vents, fans, computers, counters and screens), smudges, cobwebs, stained ceiling tiles, visible fingerprints (especially on windows, mirrors, doors, etc.), and dust in, on and around everything.

Remove all non-essential clutter of every kind: old and/or faded signs; old or post-holiday decorative accessories; and unhealthy, dead or dated plants (i.e. poinsettias after the holidays have passed). Look with an eagle eye and it will become apparent what should be removed. Be relentless!

Organize operational items such as recycle stations to remove the clutter and showcase your attention to detail.

Cap the cleaning effort by inviting a local florist to advertise in your store, bringing in a fresh arrangement weekly with their business card attached.


Professional, impactful design is not necessarily a function of money spent on the designer. Whether you are doing a minor refresh or a major renovation construction, the designer can make the end result be an exciting yet functional space that impresses clients and streamlines the work flow.

Just because you have good taste doesn’t mean you can or should design your store yourself. Good retail design is also distinguished from good home or industrial design and will provide a functional base upon which to continually update and refresh your stores to inspire your customers to return again and again.

Give the designer the scope of what you want done and an estimate of your budget. He/she will provide you with recommendations that will accomplish your goals.

Some of the items that I’ll list now are inexpensive and can be accomplished in a weekend. Others are major and will take planning, permits and construction. They are listed here to stimulate your thinking about what is appropriate in your situation.

Paint Can Make a Big Impression — Painting should be scheduled as soon as it looks less than fresh, which is usually once a year. It should be done more frequently in high-traffic areas.

A fresh coat of paint will improve the look of the store with minimal expenditure and effort. A professionally conceived dramatic design for a painted surface will add real flare and make your store distinctive.

Lighting Brings Color to Life — A simple addition of high-intensity lighting will add drama to an ordinary lobby environment. In combination with an intense accent wall, the commonplace becomes sensational.

Once the cleaning, painting and lighting are complete, you have a visual environment to showcase your services.

Small Changes Can Make an Immense Visual Impact — An etched effect on glass, for example, adds style and sophistication to your store.

A small tube of knit fabric in your logo color will transform a mundane tailor form from dull to exciting in a matter of minutes while still keeping it functional. Adding a measuring tape makes a fashion and a marketing statement simultaneously.

Add an affordable accent piece in a distinctive color for a fresh look.

Upgrade the packaging and display finished inventory for a more “retail” environment and a reminder of your specialty services.

Shadow Box Displays Add Visual Interest and Sell Services — Rotating shadow box displays can add graphic interest and attention-grabbing color that will help remind customers of what they need you to do for them.

For example, a preserved Christening gown is a piece of art and will remind them that their heirloom garments should be properly preserved for future generations to wear and appreciate.

Lobby Displays Also Add Visual Interest and Sell Services — Flat screen TVs should be designed into the plan to showcase services. The messages created for them offer several advantages:

  • The look is professional
  • The message can be clear and direct
  • Unlike sales staff, they are consistent in conveying the message you design
  • They don’t fray or fade like posters

Your Exterior is the First Opportunity to Make a Good Impression — The first impression is critical to a great customer experience, so create a welcoming entrance.

Add a drive-thru if you possibly can, as it will add convenience and sales. Don’t you think your customers would appreciate the convenience of running a quick errand with the peace of mind of not having to take children and pets out of their car while juggling the cleaning?

It is not essential to have an end location for a drive-thru. It’s possible to take an in-line space in a strip center and remove the front and back walls.

If a drive-thru is not a possibility for your business, be sure to add in-car service at your curb.

Does all of your signage (both on the building and off) reflect your current logo? Is the color still clear and bright? Is it visible for both walk-by and drive-by customers and prospects? Is it visible from a distance? Does it attract attention during the daytime and at night?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, it is time to redo your signage. This, too, can be a minor expenditure or a major one.

Refreshing the sign face is much less expensive than a completely new sign, but remember that it is the visual that drives your target prospects to become customers. So, the investment is necessary and valuable.

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