Coronavirus: The death of our industry? Or the kick up the backside drycleaners needed?

17 November 2021

Guy Deakin, owner of Smart Guys drycleaners in Pinner, Middlesex, on the outskirts of London, give LCN his personal take on the impact of Covid-19 on the trade. Deakin’s family has been in the trade for four generations and during this time, he says: “We have seen good times, very good times, and many huge threats to our industry caused by recessions, the availability of cheap clothing in a ‘throw-away’ society, the modern washing machine in every home and the harsh reality of our own industry delivering poor service and low quality work.”

GAME CHANGERS: Guy Deakin and son Zak, pictured, says it is time “to give ourselves a kick up the backside, look at where we can improve, add value and generally up our game”

And then came Covid-19 which sadly meant most people needed to do all their laundry and garment care at home, and at a lower cost. However, he says: “With the abatement of the pandemic and hopeful recovery of the UK economy, maybe it’s now time to give ourselves a kick up the backside, look at where we can improve, add value and generally up our game.

“In our own family company, I have taken a leap of faith to return to my father’s values of putting our clients’ needs first and delivering the best service we possibly can. I call them clients because this is a service we offer, similar to that a lady may want from her favourite hairdresser - we are there to look after her clothes in the same way as a hairdresser looks after hair.”

So, what is Smart Guys doing to achieve this? “We have taken a good look at the appearance of our shop from the outside, first impressions always count. We now focus on keeping it clean and tidy, reducing the number of posters and other promotions.

“If your work area is messy and disorganised, it will make your day anxious and stressful so introduce a stricter regime on tidying up, find a place to put things away, organize both the customer facing area as well as the behind the scenes workspace.  It’s much easier to focus on the tasks ahead when things are tidy and in place.

Deakin advises drycleaners to consider whether they really want to be in this trade, or do they simply want to make money from the shop” “In my experience, if your intention is just to make a ‘quick buck’, this is not the job for you,” he says.

“I confronted this problem by turning my small business into a ‘family-run business’, one that delivers the best quality, knowledge, experience and processes available. I invested in bringing about major changes, re-looking at solutions to problems that I had put aside.

“I started with a thorough, good quality training course, so our staff could understand textile care and the processes comprehensively.  We used Cole & Wilson (part of the Christeyns UK group) and our training with Hemant Zavery has proved priceless. My son Zak particularly benefited, providing him with the knowledge and experience he needs for the industry.

“Do not think you know it all! This is your first mistake. If you think you do, you will never get better. I admit even with my background, I have learned a lot!”

Do ensure and plan for proper use and servicing of your equipment, urges Deakin.  “We all have the odd steam leak, faulty valve, bad daily and weekly maintenance and so on. If you now feel re-invigorated about your business, then consider looking at investment for the future.

“Now you are probably thinking that you should re-equip and if that is the case, make sure you research this properly.  I have just had to dispose of an eight- year-old machine with rust holes in its tanks - really disgraceful. I went to Ashley at Mach 1 Engineering, having used his uncle, Paul, for over 30 years. So I know there is plenty of knowledge and experience there. They offer you a complete service, in conjunction with Cole & Wilson. Their service has been amazing, reliable and trustworthy, but more than that, it is a joy to go to work again and be able to clean very difficult garments.

“We all know that ‘Perc’ will not be permitted for much longer, so I decided to ‘future proof’ and chose Hi-Glo for my solvent. As an ex-‘Perc’ user I have seen nothing but positive outcomes. An easy to use, clear solvent and very few bleeds, with beautiful handling and a fresh smell.

“Also, wetcleaning has surprised and amazed me. Gone are the days when my Dad and Grandad used to sit over a tub of mild soapy water washing expensive items in a bucket with me looking on in terror. With 100% certainty, my Dad would approve that after 40 years in this trade, I have moved to wet-cleaning and consider it an incredible advancement – effective odour and stain removal on all types of delicate items.

Most importantly– we must not undersell our skills, time and competence!  Do not try to compete with stupid offers from your competitors down the road! You get what you pay for. Be proud of the service you give - 100%!

“Your enemy is people’s perception of drycleaners and the ‘white beast’ washing machine in their £30k kitchen! Only we can change this,” says Deakin.

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