18 June 2021
LCN caught up with Sandy and Angie Alexander who are selling their successful three-site business, Staypress, after 32 years trading. The business has grown over time from an at-home ironing service started by Angie, to three outlets in the Lothians Musselburgh, Haddington and Dalkeith – offering laundry, ironing and drycleaning services to local households. Although the business has stood up well to the ravages of the pandemic, and is now seeing uplift in demand, the couple recently took stock and decided it was time to ‘seize the day’ and move on to a new life.
When Sandy got in touch to tell his story, we thought this would be an ideal opportunity to follow the sale through from the decision to put it on the market to handing the keys over to the new owner. After this initial piece to set the scene, we will follow the process in diary extracts posted on the website www.laundryandcleaningnews.com and in UK editions going forward. Of course, nothing in life runs on rails so expect a roller coaster ride of highs, lows, boredom, frustration and despair as Sandy records the couple’s experiences from now to completion.
The story commences shortly after they engaged the services of specialist business broker Bruce and Co to advance the sale. Sandy takes up the tale.
"When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, like virtually every business in the country, it was the fear of the unknown that posed the biggest problem in assessing how to keep our staff and customers safe. While Staypress deemed an essential business, we chose to close our doors for four weeks so we could put suitable safely measures and practises in place in order to provide a safe environment from which to operate.
When the doors reopened for the first time, it was more nerve wracking than when the shop first opened nine years previously – would there be any customers given that offices, schools and hospitality were closed and social events were not permitted? Those areas produced the vast majority of our custom. However, for the mental wellbeing of our staff in particular, we were determined to reopen as soon as it was safe to do so. By choosing to open under hugely restricted hours initially, we could test the waters while minimising the costs as far as possible and safeguard the viability of the business group.
It was the original ironing service and loyal customer base that enabled us to work through the rest of 2020 and into 2021. It is only since late April 2021 that the workload across all services has seen a hugely welcome uplift, albeit still far from pre-Covid levels as yet. There is no doubt that the cautious approach taken throughout the past 15 months has meant the businesses have weathered this storm and are emerging in healthy state for the future. There is also plenty of potential to expand the businesses and it is now time for fresh blood to take the group forward and build on the success of the past 32 years.
Seize the day
Covid-19 has devastated so many lives, both personally and commercially, since the virus struck the world last year. In parallel with trying to ensure the safe passage of the businesses, there was much time to reflect. To that end the latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem’ (seize the day) firmly came to mind and we decided that if circumstances permitted why wait for another few years to ‘retire’ from the businesses if we could make it happen sooner. Health and happiness are priceless and no use when you’re no longer here. Hence, we chose to start planning the sale of the businesses and engaged the service of Bruce and Co to take the Staypress group to market. We totally understood that until lockdown significantly eased and commercial confidence began to return, then interest would be limited. To that end, there have been a few notes on interest in recent days, but only time will tell.”
TIME LINE: 1987 to today
Staypress was started by Angie in 1989 purely as a 24-hour ironing service that operated from her home to enable her to look after her two young children. As the service took off, a van, driver and additional freelance ironers provided the extra capacity to meet demand. Word-of-mouth recommendations meant demand continued to grow and in 2003 the business moved to an industrial unit to provide additional space for the staff and machinery required to support the operation.
The clientele has always been focused on individual households who perhaps valued family time to that spend slogging over an ironing board. To this day Staypress still takes care of a number of its original customers, albeit their circumstances may have changed from young working parents to retirees.
In 1999 the opportunity arose to acquire a local drycleaning retail operation which became first ‘shop front’ for customers to visit and get to know the team. By offering laundry, ironing and drycleaning from a single counter the business’s personal reputation grew steadily and customers started to travel from further afield to use our services. It would also provide for the introduction of a new team member who used the shop to get his pilot’s uniform drycleaned – Sandy – who soon became Angela’s husband.
In 2010 the opportunity arose to take on a vacant large retail unit in Musselburgh High Street and the decision was made to relocate the ironing service from its industrial unit while adding the retail counter services and self-service launderette facilities to best use the footprint of the new premises. This move not only increased the operational capacity but also enhanced the Staypress name across the Lothians. Unsurprisingly the management of the businesses also increased and the pilot was asked if he had time while away on long haul trips to take on an element of this workload – the business paperwork. The plan worked well and in 2015 Sandy hung up his epaulettes for good and became a full-time part of the operation.
Having exchanged an office at 45,000 ft for one at sea level, we decided to add additional retail outlets to increase our coverage and make a business group to support the couple’s future. To that end the second East Lothian retail operation started in 2016, closely followed by the second Midlothian operation in 2017. In 2018 the lease on the original drycleaning shop expired and, with unfavourable renewal terms, it was decided to relocate the machinery to Staypress. Since our second Midlothian shop was nearby then the pair could continue to support its original customers – an important factor.
Check out the listing for Staypress here