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Routes to Success (Part 2 of 2)

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Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/Difydave

Bruce Beggs |

Taking Your Service Directly to Your Customers: The Pros and Cons

CHICAGO — The decline of Blockbuster’s DVD rental business that led to bankruptcy and the closure of hundreds of its brick-and-mortar stores across the country last year is a wake-up call for drycleaners, warns “The Route Pro” James Peuster.

Why? Because drycleaning and Blockbuster have something in common: it’s necessary to make two trips for service.

“You rent a movie, you go home, you return it next time,” he says. “You drop off clothes, go home, you pick them back up. Very few retail situations require two trips for service. This is why routes are now essential.”

But the drycleaner who is considering starting route service better be serious about it, Peuster says, because not being fully invested in the effort can create more headaches than they’re worth.

For 10 years, Peuster has been an “on- and off-site coach, specifically for routes.” The goal of his consulting business is “to make sure people do routes right, or not at all.”

GETTING BETTER

When operators struggle to maintain profitable route operations, it often boils down to their choice of driver, Peuster says.

“With gas prices going up, times changing, and more people doing routes … just having a driver going around, running in circles, isn’t enough anymore. They’ve got to be able to add to the marketing effort.”

Another problem pops up when the drycleaning route operator goes overboard and starts “over-servicing” his customers.

“They start trying to over-service the customers by doing will calls or special requests on every single customer, when going to the customer’s house or place of work twice a week for free literally is going the extra mile. … I see routes get stagnant because they’re over-servicing customers and there is no room for growth. Customer service has to be profitable, too.”

Maintaining accountability and advancement of routes is critical.

“Sometimes, people will have the routes on auto-pilot. Or the owners will say they’ve ‘orphaned’ the route, let it kind of be on its own to say they have a route.”

PROS AND CONS

Besides being able to continue serving customers that may scale back their drycleaning purchases, Peuster points to the pros of having route service vs. a drop store:

  • Cost of a delivery vehicle will be less than rent on a new drop store.
  • Labor will cost less for a route than a drop store.
  • Gasoline costs will be less than utilities cost for a building.
  • But there are also cons, Peuster admits.
  • It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to successfully build a route.
  • The marketing investment you make today won’t be recouped immediately.
  • A poor driver presents another liability for your business.

But after serving clients in 39 states and having traveled to more than 190 plants over the past 10 years, Peuster is confident in the future of drycleaning route service.

“Looking at the companies that I’ve worked with over the past three years, those that do routes are the ones who increased growth. Not just in the routes but at the store level, too. Those that didn’t have routes had decreased sales.”

Click here for Part 1.

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.

Comments

Increased Growth vs Increased Profit

Again, it's me. I have seen this time and time again.

Increased sales growth may not mean increased profit with respect to overall short term costs, and just as important, long term costs.

Increase sales may, or may not, mean increased profit.

While I am not really sure that rent maybe cheaper than delivery vehicles, delivery vehicles need to be replaced, repaired and maintained. Let's look at the 10 years costs of both delivery vehicles vs the costs on a pickup station... And then show me the difference after 5 and 10 years. And are gasoline costs really cheaper than electricity costs of a pickup station? I think that can certainly becdebateable  now in 2011 and 2012 and on and at $3.00+ / gallon.

Another thing is that even though Blockbuster is essentially a 2-trip for service, this is not necessarily true for dry cleaning / laundry as BOTH a drop off and pick up can many times happen on a SINGLE trip and this is especially true for repeat and good customers.

Next, drivers are really a lot harder to find, get and train and keep than what it appears at first. This is not Domino's as customers always have a far more varied and complicated set of items and possible stains than say pizzas toppings.

Lastly, if one were to move one's best customers to routes, that would be the similar to moving your best customers to your pickup station. Hence, one would be moving their best customers to their pickup station which only is an added expense. Thus, less profit from one's best customers.

 

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