Q1 2021

Striking Your Perfect Balance Between Cost, Price, and Quality

by Don Desrosiers, Tailwind Systems

What’s the difference between the drycleaner who offers all garments for one low price and the drycleaner who charges full retail, along with upcharges for designer brands, delicate fabrics, stains and special handling?

What’s the difference between the drycleaner who offers all garments same day and the drycleaner who learned long ago that buying drycleaning service is completely different than buying a quart of milk or a loaf of bread? If the goal is to make garments ready to wear for customers, it just may take more – and dare I say much more – than the confines of an eight-hour day. If that is the goal, what is the difference between the top-service drycleaner and the one who guarantees all garments same day?

You have a choice. There are at least three ways to market your business. Well, there are dozens, I suppose; location, convenience, green-clean, friendly staff, etc. I shouldn’t try to enumerate them. Let me simplify it this way: You can market your product based on service, you can market based on quality, or you can market based on price.

You can probably think of someone who fits into each of the following categories in your market.

Lightning-Fast Service

There’s the slam-bam cleaner. Same-day service. They have a steam tunnel. You’ve gone by there at 5 p.m. and seen eight customers waiting for their orders. This cleaner struggles to get everything out on Mondays. High speed is often the cause of mistakes. They seem to do the volume but it’s crazy in there.  You’re pretty sure they “bang and hang” the clothes to get them out. You have mystery shopped the place and the quality is “OK.” Lower attention to detail than most customers would likely prefer. This cleaner sells on service. Do they drop the ball?  Most likely, yes. At the end of the day, there are eight pieces they can’t find. They hope the customers don’t show up. They are probably right half the time. The other half, they say, “The dress isn’t quite ready.” They hope the dress shows up tomorrow.

Super Low Price

Then there are the cleaners who sell on low price to gain high volume. They may promise fast service, good pressing, and clean clothes, but their key marketing thrust is low price. This marketing can attract a large demographic who view all drycleaners as basically the same. Such a customer learns that drycleaners are not the same when they are forced into a comparison. For example, if one of these customers is on vacation and brings a blouse to a drycleaner who removes a stain they had been told was permanent, our low-price cleaner takes a credibility hit. The point here is that this busines model focuses on low prices.

Old School

Our third example cleaner basks in relative obscurity. There are no signs in their windows except those advertising their services: “Tailoring on Site”, “All Work Done on Premises”, “We Do Leathers.”  There’s never a mention of price. When you go in there, the prices are not exorbitant but they’re more than you thought they’d be. If you ask about the prices, they will likely say they do quality work.

This cleaner probably grew up in the business. Discounting has never been in their DNA. The facilities are often dated because they were once state-of-the-art and therefore regular updates were not part of the annual routine. Eventually, every facility needs an update. This can include the price list, too, which keeps this cleaner from being the most expensive drycleaner in town. Sadly, this cleaner isn’t reading this magazine because they don’t belong to DLI. That’s not in their DNA, either. Because of that, they are “Old School” as far as stain removal and the latest chemistry go. I know. I’ve seen it. So, they sell on quality, but drop the ball, too.

Some of us frown on discounters, but they are the cleaners who always keep their promises!  The cleaner who promises fast service is at the mercy of employees, suppliers, utilities, volume, productivity, equipment, service workers, parts availability, United Parcel Service, and who knows what else! The cleaner who promises top quality is at the mercy of each and every one of those things plus their own skill set and/or that of one or more key employees. The cleaner who sells on price? No matter what goes wrong, they keep their promise to their customers. Period. “I told you [THIS PRICE], and I meant it.”

So, am I telling you to do that?  No. Not at all.

Who Are You?

I already know what kind of drycleaner you are. You are a member of The Drycleaning & Laundry Institute. I don’t take that lightly. When I write this column, I know my readers. You don’t fit exactly into any of the three above categories. You may find yourself defending your place in the market from time to time, sometimes to staff, sometimes to customers.

I want you to charge fairly for your product. That doesn’t mean I want you to raise prices willy-nilly because its 2021. I want you to charge more when you are worth more. It is really easy to say the cleaner down the street who does shirts for under a dollar does a lousy job. However, you will be speechless if you bring your shirts there and they come out great. Whenever you are called upon to defend your “higher than the other guy” price, you will play the quality card. Go right ahead, but make sure you are doing a better job! It’s not difficult, there’s a quick checklist on the next page to help you keep your promise of high quality.

Did you check this many things on pants in your plant today? By the way, one of my biggest pet peeves is pockets that are all crumbled in a ball and pressed that way.

The lesson today is simple: Let quality be the reason for your price, but make sure that your quality game is there.

Don Desrosiers has been in the drycleaning and shirt laundering business since 1978. He is a workflow engineer and a management consultant who provides serves to shirt launderers and drycleaners in the United States, Mexico, and western Europe through Tailwind Systems. He is a member of the Society of Professional Consultants and the 2001 recipient of DLI’s Commitment to Professionalism Award. He can be reached at 186 Narrow Avenue, Westport, MA 02790 or at his office by fax (508) 636-8839; by cell (508) 965-3163; or e-mail at tailwindsystems@charter.net. He has a website at www.tailwindsystems.com.



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