Disruption rules on the streets of London28 September 2020
A retail cleaner in London’s King’s Cross has turned the limitations imposed by Covid-19 to its advantage and actually grown its business during lockdown – and found a new role as a disruptor of traditional ways
1 Stop Wash, an environmentallyfocused launderette in King’s Cross has launched a brand-new web app in an effort not only to avoid going under during lockdown but also to innovate the age-old launderette business as the economic effects of the coronavirus began to bite.
The 1 Stop Wash web app allows customers who are working from home or self-isolating to get their laundry and drycleaning picked up and delivered via a few taps on their phone. It also allows customers to customise their cleaning preferences such as using bio or non-bio detergents. The web app is now available to use in selected postcodes and offers a wide variety of services.
With 50% of the UK’s workforce adapting to the ‘new normal’ and working from home and with millions of people selfisolating, Covid-19 has led to fewer people leaving their homes to use small local businesses. This has put the futures of many independent cleaners in severe jeopardy.
Rohit Dhillon, director of operations at 1 Stop Wash, admits that on-demand tech laundry and drycleaning apps already exist but argues they are expensive due to their acting as middlemen and farming out cleaning to third party companies. He believes with little to no control of the cleaning process, these companies use facilities that continue to use harmful chemicals such as Perc in their cleaning processes, a chemical which he points out has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the EPA.
According to figures from Ibis World the UK laundry and drycleaning market is worth nearly £2 billion, said Dhillon, and online services for this sector has had an incredible year on year growth rate of 16% before Covid-19 struck. Many app’s have burst on the scene to disrupt the age-old industry but some have also failed in the same time mainly due to the rigid ‘ondemand’ business model. This was perfectly demonstrated when tech giant Laundrapp secured £15 million in funding before falling into administration in early February this year before being acquired by Inc & Co Group
1 Stop Wash is aiming to bring the traditional local launderette and drycleaner experience straight to the customer’s doorstep by offering a more sustainable business model compared to its tech counterparts. The service exists everyday between a tight two-hour time slot as opposed to offering multiple time slots throughout the day like their competitors. This has allowed them to offer cheaper prices as they save up to 50% on fuel costs and 70% fewer driver worked hours as well as cutting the middleman from the process.
Post-Covid-19 will be a difficult period for many high street launderettes and drycleaners as demand has dropped for traditional shirts and suits as many find themselves now acclimatising to working from home. This in turn has ramped up the urgency for many local launderettes to now fully digitalise their services and offer pick up and drop off as they look to survive the likely negative economic impact of Covid-19.
Dhillon joined his family’s small laundry business last summer and was successfully growing the business until the Pandemic disrupted his plans. He explained: “The impact of the pandemic was felt overnight. I went from planning to scale-up to wondering how we’d survive this sudden downturn in business. We supported our community during the pandemic by offering free laundry to the elderly and worked hard behind the scenes to quickly create an affordable and eco-friendly online service that our customers demand. The reaction was fantastic in our first week and we can’t wait to release our app.”
Stephen Sangster, senior proposition manager for one of the UK’s leading banks, Barclays, applauded the pivot in the family’s business model and has spoken about how other businesses can take a leaf out of Dhillon’s book.
“Rohit’s story is an inspiring one for many within the Barclays company. As well as adapting to the current crisis with the launch of an impressive web app, he has taken initiative and utilised the support being given to small businesses right now. This includes our unique Nextdoor partnership which has allowed Rohit to advertise to 150,000 local customers completely free. It’s this type of adaptation that SMEs must involve themselves in to continue surviving in the post pandemic market.”