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What’s All the Fuss About Haute Couture?

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haute couture dry cleaning
Photo: FIRSTVIEW

Diana Vollmer |

SAN FRANCISCO — Since the November/December issue of American Drycleaner features fashion and fabricare, it might be opportune to examine the impact of the haute couture runway fervor on the day-to-day business of dry cleaning.

GOOD FOR BUSINESS

The obvious effect of the fashion previews is to help us determine what challenges may lay ahead in caring for the fashions that eventually arrive in our stores. The more important influence is likely much greater. Being attuned to fashion and the interests of passionate fashionistas is good for your business. And the fashion industry is the most direct path to reach these desirable, fashion-obsessed consumers.

The elusive next generation of young dry cleaning customers avidly follows fashion trends via all media, including electronic and print magazines. Fashion influence will direct them to your doors (or vans).

TRICKLE-DOWN INSPIRATION

Even though the vast majority of your customers don’t wear couture clothing, their wardrobes eventually reflect the influence of the leading designers. You must cope with their fashion choices when caring for your customers’ wardrobes. A good example is the original Alexander McQueen rosette gown that inspired copies at every price range, all of which presented finishing challenges requiring hours of painstaking care to press all of those lovely ruffled rose petals.

If you don’t believe the influence of couture design on the mass market, just witness the rush on Target when they featured Missoni recently. There was so much demand for the Missoni items that the Target website was overwhelmed and shut down for two hours.

EXPOSURE FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Fashion events provide a platform for tremendous exposure to the “clients who clean.” The third annual September Fashion’s Night Out extravaganza reached around the globe, capturing the imagination and attention of your best customers in every major city in the world. The many associated events offer you a tremendous opportunity for involvement and the resulting exposure to your best customers, their peers and the fashion industry that caters to them. Monitor FashionsNightOut.com to prepare to capitalize on this annual event.

RETAILER RELATIONSHIPS

Retailers and designers need:

  • Reliable professional fabricare services to maintain the wardrobes and linens they sell to their customers
  • Maintenance of their store inventory in a salable condition
  • Care for the staff wardrobes
  • Staff training to understand the care the garments will need
  • Event attendees (your customers are their ideal target market)

Being visible and valuable to the stores that serve your best customers is one of the most effective and efficient sales and marketing investments you can make. Proving your capabilities to the fashion front line will subtly convert them into an effective sales force for your company.

If you supply them with these services, you will always be top of mind for their referrals. And if you keep them supplied with stacks of your business cards (preferably with your locations mapped on the back), your contact information will always be at hand for them to share with their customers.

They can also produce and underwrite the cost of unique events, such as fashion shows and personal shopper presentations to which you can invite your customers and prospects. These events provide your customers with a unique insider experience that translates as an implied endorsement of your services by the store. This is subtle impactful selling at its best.

Retailers and designers can also provide you with professional fashionable displays and inspiration for packaging as well as image and décor of your own stores.

They can provide content for your flat screens ranging from runway fashion shows to previews of a specific designer’s next season line. Consider asking for the previews from the designers that are most popular with your customers (available through your POS description fields).

BUT I’M NOT A COUTURE CLEANER

Target the stores where your best customers shop. If your best customers leave your market to shop in a big city, consider a remote relationship with their favorite stores. A group excursion for a day of pampering and shopping (sponsored by you) might win their valuable (and profitable) loyalty.

Someone who is ardent about your business and passionate about fashion is ideal for cultivating retailer and designer relationships. They can do this outreach part-time and be highly effective. You don’t have to be the fashion face of the company unless you want to be.

The dream customers of retailers and of dry cleaners have similar psychographics. That is why retailers will contribute generously (in the form of their time, events, materials and expertise) to an effort that will put them squarely in front of your customers. Joint venturing with them is one of the least expensive forms of effective marketing that you can plan. You really can’t afford to leave this piece out of your sales and marketing puzzle.

FASHION OUTREACH IS PROFITABLE

The strongest argument for staying attuned and in touch with the fashion industry is profit. Based on Methods for Management client data, there is a direct correlation between profitability and implementation of a fashion outreach program. The entertainment value is a bonus!

About the author

Diana Vollmer

Methods for Management (MFM) Inc.

Managing Director

Diana Vollmer is managing director of Methods for Management (MFM) Inc., a consultancy specializing in drycleaning businesses. You may contact her at dvollmer@mfmi.com, 415-577-6544.

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