THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ACCELERATED MANY CHANGES IN THE INDUSTRY AND THE WORLD IN GENERAL. SOME CONVENIENCES THAT WERE NICE ADD-ONS QUICKLY BECAME ESSENTIAL. Drycleaners across America and around the globe pivoted into the new reality of a pandemic world. Offering Wash Dry Fold (WDF) is one method garment care professionals use to increase piece counts and make services more convenient for customers. DLI asked a group of member cleaners about their experiences with WDF; some of their helpful and welcome answers to our questions follow.
WHEN DID YOU BEGIN OFFERING WDF?
“I’ve been doing Wash-Dry-Fold for 40 years, since I started out in the laundry business,” said Larry Fish of Pier Cleaners in Rhode Island.
“We began offering Wash-Dry-Fold about two or three years ago,” said Carolina Monterrubio Barrera of Wash-o in New York City.
“I’ve been offering it since I started the drycleaning business in 1997,” said Jason Loeb of Sudsies in Miami, Florida.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR BUSINESS IS WDF?
“Maybe sixty percent is WDF; we customize in the service and use animal cruelty-free products. We have a lot of customers who have sensitive skin, and they can send us their own detergent,” said Barrera. “We also fold things according to customer specifications, which is hard because we can’t please everyone.”
“By year, WDF was 22% in 2021, 18% in 2020, and 12.5% in 2019 of our business,” said Fish. “We mostly do drycleaning pickup and delivery, with an occasional laundry customer.”
“It is about 6% of our sales and volume,” said Loeb. “Drycleaning is our focus, but WDF is in addition.”
HOW HAS THIS CHANGED, AND HOW DO YOU SEE IT CHANGING?
“We pivoted to WDF during the pandemic, twice as much as in 2019,” said Fish. “It’s the reason we survived the pandemic. We have 12 routes, six vans, two routes each van, and we do probably 40- 45% through our routes,” he said.
“With the pandemic, everything changed, so it’s hard to tell,” said Barrera. “Especially here in Manhattan people left, but they’re coming back.”
“It has not changed for us,” said Loeb. “It has remained steady and has had parallel growth with all sectors of our services. What has changed is the perception of drycleaners now offering the service instead of just laundromats,” he said.
WHAT TIPS CAN YOU OFFER SOMEONE PLANNING TO MARKET WDF?
“The very first thing is if you’re already doing routes, offer the free pickup and delivery of WDF to your existing customers,” said Fish. “They already know you, they’re happy with your services, and if they’re looking to unload a chore that takes up to five or six hours of their week, now you’ll be picking up two to three extra bags of stuff,” he said. “The second thing we did was we started using some social media, Constant Contact messages to our whole email database, not just customers who were in our stores but every contact in our POS.”
“We used the Nextdoor app (a free community messaging board) to reach people in their homes during the pandemic,” said Barrera. “Plus, we put flyers in residential buildings near our store and sometimes buy ads on Facebook or Google My Business,” she said.
“Marketing WDF is all about service, convenience, and experience,” said Loeb. “We market WDF to our existing customers using social media, text messages, email campaigns, and blog posts,” he said. “Promote it as an additional service that is convenient to use.”
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO START SEEING RESULTS WITH A WDF PROGRAM?
“It’s immediate!” said Fish. “As long as you have the capability. I have a laundromat associated with the drycleaners, but some colleagues subcontract out to their friends.”
“The results are immediate,” agreed Loeb.
HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED ANY OBSTACLES TO WDF GROWTH? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
“In New York City, space is at a premium,” said Barrera. “You have the space to put the machines but not space for the tables. Many other companies have quality issues because there’s not enough space to fold the dry clothes, or clothes get too close to other piles of clothes. We used to send it out but realized the quality wasn’t that good, so we bought machines, moved into somewhere with enough space to expand, and we saw a threefold increase in demand,” she said.
“The obstacle is space and the efficiency of the systems being used,” said Loeb. “We added all new stackable Miele programmable washers and dryers, which has helped increase production in a faster turnaround time,” he said.
”Staffing has been the biggest obstacle during the whole pandemic,” said Fish. “When I started, you could do five loads of laundry at a time as long as they were in mesh bags. But inevitably a sock or pair of underwear would sneak out of the mesh bag, and that causes issues,” he said. “So we had to change and just do one load at a time, put big orders in big machines and smaller orders in smaller machines, and each group of items into its own dryer.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MORE INVENTIVE OR STRANGE ITEMS THAT PEOPLE HAVE BROUGHT IN?
“We’ve cleaned a Bozo the Clown doll as well as a beer can mascot for a brewery and the ram for the University of Rhode Island,” said Fish.
“Someone brought in over twenty fancy, expensively tailored items for a dog and they wanted them all cleaned professionally,” said Barrera. “And sometimes people think their underwear needs special treatment, or a specific fold. It’s amazing!”
POTENTIAL FOR PROGRESS
Offering WDF can be a relatively straightforward and immediate way to expand your services into as-yet untapped markets. Please reach out to us with questions about this article or to follow up with your own insight by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (800) 638-2627.