Drycleaning businesses can no longer rely on core “traditional”garment and textile cleaning to generate all revenue. Increasingly independent single-unit high street operators are seeking to expand their business with additional services.

Collection and delivery services, shirt laundering and finishing, wedding gown cleaning and garment alterations and repairs can all add to profits.

Extra business may also result from hiring out equipment such as heavy-duty carpet cleaners and from specialist services like leather and suede, curtain cleaning and duvets.

Becoming a one-stop shop for a wide range of services will not only increase revenue but can also give a business a competitive advantage in the area. However, adding these extra lines can mean making a fairly substantial investment early on. For example adding a collection and delivery service may involve buying the vehicle as well as maintenance and running costs and possibly taking on a driver.

Schoffields Quality Dry Cleaning & Launderette is a leading drycleaner in the Peterborough area.

The Orton Malborne-based family-run business offers several specialist services to customers in and around the region, including an evening wear/wedding dress service, pressing, stain removal, repairs and alterations, curtain cleaning, carpet cleaning machine hire and a shoe repair service.

Proprietor Angela Holmes is a member of the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers. She believes that quality should set a business apart from other cleaners – the services provided have value.

Having coined the business motto “Synonymous with Service”, Holmes says that high quality work, attention to detail and fantastic customer service are the foundation of the business and the reason Schoffields has stayed in business for almost 30 years.

Building a team is equally important. At present, there are three long-serving, full-time staff and a regular delivery driver on contract.

Schoffields has provided a collection and delivery service from day one. The catchment area covers a lot of villages with “a lot of potential revenue” says Holmes. “We had our own dedicated van complete with Schoffields logo. Now we hire a driver, pay hourly rates and cover petrol costs and they pick up and deliver.”

The business also started its laundry service in the early days. Some cleaners prefer to work in conjunction with a local laundry to provide a service that covers a range of items from shirts to table linen and duvet covers but Angela Holmes says that any drycleaner ought to consider having a washing machine on their premises. “You cannot afford to ignore revenue – I learnt never turn anything away.”

The Schoffields’ business – which has branched out to include a launderette with eight large machines – regularly handles quilts and duvets. Holmes says that cleaning textiles such as quilts properly usually requires professional equipment rather than a domestic washer and so it’s natural that customers would bring such an item to a specialist like Schoffields.

Shirts provide another opportunity. “Many customers wash their clothes but hate ironing, especially shirts – that’s where we step in and take care of it.”

Schoffields has also handled specialist cleaning such as the sportswear worn by the mascot of Peterborough United. Now the business is an official “Posh” cleaner and maintains close links with the club through its fund-raising and player sponsorship.

Curtain cleaning forms an important part of the business. As well as the curtains and linings, the company will clean nets, blinds, pelmets and tie-backs. Customers vary from private households to local businesses.

Holmes says that providing a curtain service is very important. You do have to know your materials, especially now that cheap materials are being imported and there is a risk that they can shrink or that the colours can run.

She dismisses the claims that on-site cleaning is more effective than drycleaning or laundering.

In her experience, curtains take time to clean properly – a factor that allows the cleaner to charge a higher rate for the service, which can also include taking curtains down for cleaning and putting them back.

If the curtains are intended for use in a public place the may have to be re-treated to ensure flame retardancy as the cleaning process can remove some of the flame retardant. “We do not provide this treatment here – we send them to a specialist unit geared to handling them.”

Another specialist service is the care of delicate and special garments such as a wedding dress or ball gown. “A cleaner really does need to do their homework on this,” she says. “It is second nature to me as my background enabled me to understand the materials used in dresses and curtains.”

The shop’s Böwe perc machines were safely adapted by her engineer husband Paul Holmes to allow Angela and her staff to handle the delicates, dresses and special beading at the correct temperature. “I trained my own staff but if I was considering setting up a wedding dress service and did not have expertise, I would seek the professional training provided by organisations such as Satra.”

Repairs and alterations are carried out in-house. This type of service can be more complicated as trained people are needed to do the work.

Angela Holmes says: “I’m very fortunate as I was brought up in the “Rag Trade” in London from a young age and also went to the London College of Fashion in Regent Street for two years.” This led her into the fashion industry giving her experience in designing and production. Holmes trained her alterations lady in all these skills and in tailoring, a skill she learnt from her parents.

“My lady has been with me 29 years. We have made curtains, tailored clothes and anything from beaded items to wedding dresses.”

As part of Schoffields’ commitment to customer service, the business has its own carpet cleaning machines for customers to hire. “Again, we did our homework and checked what machines were industry-reliable before we purchased one.”

Schoffields operates a shoe repair service, picking up the shoes and having the repairs carried out by experienced specialists.

Angela Holmes feels that to make sure the business runs smoothly, it should be possible to provide whatever service the customer requires.”If a customer is not able to bring their items to us, then we can collect and deliver. This particular service is very important now because everyone is so busy working – we also collect from their workplace, not just from homes.”

Sam Nandha, the owner of long-established Prime Dry Cleaners in Letchworth Garden City clearly takes pride in his experience and attention to detail. He says that the business provides a high quality drycleaning service to all customers, as well as a wide range of extra services that meets their cleaning needs.”

As well as the core drycleaning service, Prime Dry Cleaners offers specialist lines including laundry and ironing, repairs and alterations, rug cleaning and a service for wedding dresses and suits. Sam Nandha has a family background in textile cleaning and has been in business for 11 years.

In addition to the main shop in Letchworth, he took over a collection drop-in at Stevenage station 18 months ago. He employs his own team of three full-time staff and the business operates its own delivery van for collection/drop-off to customers.

Nandha says that providing extra services in addition to drycleaning is essential. These extra services bring in customers throughout the day and this should generate extra income.”Prime’s client base is varied – there is a large commuter trade, with steady business from private residential customers, small businesses and security firms.

The main services are suit cleaning, tailoring, workwear and drycleaning casual wear, which accounts for around 30% of the work. He describes around 10% of the business as specialist. After acquiring the Stevenage unit, Nandha decided it was time to upgrade the drycleaning and finishing plant at Letchworth. He says the choice of equipment is crucial in achieving consistent standards, an essential part of a successful drycleaning business. To this end he looked closely at all the machinery suppliers to see what would best suit his business. He eventually ordered a Unisec SESERV 16kg perc machine, supplied by S&E Services.

Nandha says he has received lots of favourable comments about the feel of the clothes after cleaning and the fact that they do not smell of drycleaning chemicals.

He says that the standard of garment finishing is becoming more and more important as the finish quality is seen to represent the standard of cleaning and service throughout the shop. The key point, he adds, is that when investing in upgrading their businesses, cleaners need to select the best set-up for their particular outlet.

For ironing and pressing garments, Nandha chose a Rotondi automatic finishing press with built-in boiler and vacuum unit, also supplied by S&E Services. The vacuum function can be selected using a pedal and this avoids the need to keep the vacuum motor running all day. The machinery was delivered and up and running the same day with minimal production loss, says Nandha, who adds that the new installations should significantly reduce electricity and water consumption.

The business has washing machines supplied by JLA, says Nandha. He says that most drycleaners are looking to either secure or expand their market share by taking on new business and one of the most popular ways of doing this is to offer a traditional domestic laundry service. It is important both as a business “back-up” during quieter trading spells and as service in its own right for handling work such as duvets and rugs.

Nandha operates a shirt-laundering service to complement the drycleaning business but doesn’t have a dedicated shirt finishing machine as yet.

“It’s a question of volumes, he explains.“We are looking at quality not quantity at moment. Our shirts are all hand finished by the team, using our established laundry room.”

The business introduced its wedding dress service in the early days and this “is an excellent money spinner.” It is a specialist service but not as labour intensive as shirts.

He developed the wedding dress service, based on years of experience. “It is not something to rush into.”

He first promoted the service by cleaning a second-hand dress and displaying it prominently. Satisfied that the drycleaning machine can run at a cool setting, Nandha often does the beadwork and trims himself.

He employs two ladies to carry out repairs and alterations that customers ask for. All work is done on site and each worker specialises in particular types of repairs.

The only service that Prime contracts out to a specialist is leather and suede but Nandha collects the work from the customer and returns it.