DALLAS — One of the biggest challenges in the drycleaning industry is seasonality. In the springtime and fall in Minneapolis it seems like everyone simultaneously says to themselves, “I should go to the dry cleaner,” and volume spikes to overwhelm your plant.
But in the frigid winter or steamy summer, those same people hightail it out of town. In Minnesota, people drive out to their cabins on the lakes and volume drops significantly after Memorial Day. The slowdown in customers and excess capacity can lead to the “summertime blues.”
The summertime blues present three major issues for dry cleaners that work in lockstep to make life difficult. First, you have a decline in volume, which corresponds to a decline in revenue. Second, you have excess capacity, which results in lower productivity. Finally, you have a decrease in morale, as your staff wonders if the business is going down the toilet or they are unable to make their full 40 hours.
If not managed carefully, the summertime blues can go from a temporary seasonal issue to a full-on, year-round disorder.
While you can never fully eliminate the seasonality associated with the summertime blues, there are things you can do to mitigate its effects and even take advantage of it. As President Kennedy said, “in a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.”
So, the question then is: What are the opportunities in the summertime slowdown?
1. Reward your customers and drive volume
The summertime slowdown generally results in excess capacity. Your store associates have more time to assist customers and your plant staff has more free capacity to process garments. This represents an amazing opportunity for you to provide your customers with a truly delightful and rewarding experience.
There are countless ways to do this, but here are a couple examples.
You can encourage your store staff to write personalized thank you notes to their top customers with exclusive offers. You can offer volume discounts on clothing to fill the excess capacity. You can add special gifts to customer orders that you wouldn’t normally have time to assemble. You can send out mailings for side services that your customers might appreciate.
2. Focus on major improvement projects
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with owners who say, “We’d love to make such and such improvement, but we just never have the time.” Well, this is your moment!
Ask yourself, “What major improvement can I make to my plant or stores that hasn’t been accomplished because we haven’t had the time or teampower?” It could be remodeling your stores or cleaning up your plant. You’ve been given the gift of time. Now it’s up to you to use it.
3. Summer school
As we’ve discussed in other articles, culture is the foundation to a successful business. However, drycleaning and laundry production has such time-intensive demands that it is often difficult to pull your team away to do the teaching and culture-building that empowers your team members to improve your business.
By using the summer slowdown to teach your employees about how your company is doing, what values you want to have, how they can improve and drive improvement themselves, you will be preparing yourself for the inevitable fall volume increase that will follow.
Of course, these are just a few examples of what is possible to counter the summertime blues. What really matters is for you to change your mindset from summertime blues to summertime opportunity and to instill the same in your staff.
We should be excited for the summer because it offers us the opportunity to reward our customer and build our culture. The baseball and sunshine aren’t half bad either. Enjoy your summer!