Dry Cleaners, Seeking New Ways To Survive, Take Inspiration From Restaurants And Retail

By Becky Yerak
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From small operators to the 36-store “CD One Price Cleaners”, dry cleaners are trying several new strategies to attract and retain clients. They’re marketing other services like cleaning rugs and other home goods and they’re looking for ways to make drop-off and pickup more convenient for consumers.


Rafiq Karimi Jr. isn’t about to let anything or anyone get in the way of cleaning clothes.

Not consumers wearing lower-maintenance casual clothes to work. Not retailers selling inexpensive “disposable” fashions. Not telecommuters staying in their jammies. Not smoking bans lessening the need for trips to the cleaners. Certainly not garment-makers replacing silk, wool and other delicates with cotton and polyester blends that hold up to laundering in standard washing machines.

In Illinois alone, hundreds of dry cleaners have closed in the past two decades, but Karimi’s CD One Price Cleaners is among those trying to adapt in an industry that, despite a rebounding economy, is shrinking like wool in hot water.

To iron out their problems, dry cleaning businesses, from small operators to the 36-store CD One Price Cleaners, are trying several new strategies.

They’re marketing other services, like laundry for a wider array of clothing beyond the usual dress shirts, as well as cleaning rugs and other home goods, and they’re looking for ways to make drop-off and pickup more convenient and faster for consumers.

Some are touting environmental credentials, trying to operate more efficiently to pass savings onto customers and finding inspiration from strategies used in the restaurant and retail industries.

As if consumers’ changing habits weren’t challenging enough, the Illinois Senate recently floated the idea of slapping new taxes on services like dry cleaning, which could inflict more pain on an industry that’s already being taken to the cleaners.

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