When drycleaning shops were established in the 1960s, the idea behind them was to have small production units that were independent of the main factory and avoided the costs of ferrying back and forth.

At that time we promoted a fast service because we didn’t get paid until the customer collected but once shops introduced pre-payment, that motivation fell away and service times suffered.

Now in 2012 the situation has changed. Drycleaning has suffered a considerable decline but I believe that in this economic climate there are opportunities to revitalise our businesses by returning to the basics and promoting fast service times once again.

Most garments can be processed in one day so tell the customer when their cleaning will be ready and encourage early collection.

The more stock you have on the rails, the more jammed the garments become and the more difficult it is to locate the order, so increasing the likelihood of mistakes.

The longer the service time, the more old stock will be accumulated.

A cleaner will only have to tag the express orders with a collection time.

The longer we keep completed orders on our premises, the longer we prevent the customer from using them and I believe that our service times are damaging the efficiency of our operations, our image and our development.

Customers have grown used to longer service times so if drycleaners want to change such habits the will have to keep promoting their ability to offer a shorter service time by talking to them about the added convenience.

So I suggest that cleaners should look at their incoming orders and assess how much of the work can be completed that day. If a one-day turnround is possible on a garment then offer it to the customer. Why should the goods remain on our premises and be our responsibility when they could be back with the customer?

The sooner we return them, hopefully the sooner the customer will bring them back to us.

Could a faster service increase revenue? Try it and see.

Tony Finlay has been involved in the drycleaning industry since 1979 and has owned drycleaning businesses both in the UK and in South Africa. While in South Africa he also ran a consultancy and wrote a column for a South African drycleaning trade journal. In 2007 he returned to the UK where he runs a consultancy and also regularly addresses local organisations.

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