Appy days are here to stay2 November 2016
The industry is moving into the 21st century as entrepreneurs take advantage of the ubiquitous App to drive business towards operators. Kathy Bowry investigates the phenomenon.
There are two main players on the App front doing battle to win the hearts and minds of launderers and dry cleaners in the UK. Both offer operators a chance to grow their businesses by putting access to textile cleaning services readily available at the fingertips of new and existing clients.
The Drycleaner App and Laundrapp go about this in very different ways. The Drycleaner App simply puts customers in touch with a local quality drycleaner while Laundrapp appoints an operator in a designated area to fulfil all its requirements.
The former leaves it to the drycleaner to set the charge and takes a small commission for passing the business on while Laundrapp passes its own charge on to the customer, again leaving the operator to set their own price per piece processed.
Both are confident they can win over established businesses to their way of thinking along with the public who just need to download the app onto their phone or tablet.
The Dry Cleaner App
Originally launched in Media City, Manchester, The Dry Cleaner App enables customers to connect directly with local drycleaners across the United Kingdom and Ireland to schedule collection and delivery of garments.
The Dry Cleaner App is available to download on Apple iOS and Android phones. In march this year the company was looking to crowdfund a maximum of £200,000 under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) with a minimum investment of £25 via Crowd for Angels is the first directly regulated crowdfunding platform for debt and equity funding.
The Dry Cleaner App developer and founder Jonathan O'Brien, a member of the Guild of Cleaners & Launderers and the Textile Services Association, has met with several store owners in London and aroud the country in recent months as the company continues to expand.
"Feedback has been extremely positive from members who have been testing the store login," he said. "This provides them with online control over prices and services and we have made additional changes based on their suggestions."
In August The Dry Cleaner App launched its new fully-functional website booking system, to accompany its downloadable mobile app. Offering a simple solution to laundry and drycleaning, the startup business has grown since it started in March 2015 and currently covers 600 locations across the UK, with a further 400 drycleaning businesses expected to join by the end of this year, according to O’Brien.
O’Brien says: “We remove the need for intermediaries and connect our customers directly to their local or nearest service, making drycleaning a quick and simple process.” O’Brien who comes from a family of drycleaners and has is feet panted firmly in the industry says his App has been specifically designed for drycleaners and launderers who are already well established, with a reputation for quality, and who can collect and deliver in their local area. He believes this is the way to build the business as, he says, pointing at the fall of the Washio app business in the United States: “Winter is coming to tech companies …if they cannot get the venture capital to fuel their business they will die in the long term.”
The Dry Cleaner App works with independent businesses and larger chains including White Rose Dry Cleaners in London and Carlton Cleaners in Manchester. It is also making inroads in the Republic of Ireland and in Australia.
According to Ed Relf who dreamed up Laundrapp in 2014, the concept is “a game changer, a revolutionary business” and he believes it is the UK textile services’ equivalent of Uber, the app-based alternative to the licensed taxi.
Like The Drycleaner App, consumers simply download the app to their smartphones to start the procedure to have their laundry or drycleaning done – Landrapp takes care of the rest from pick up, washing and finishing to delivery wherever it is most convenient for the customer.
The app is featured by Apple, Google and Amazon and Relf reckons Laundrapp enables a garment to be cleaned every 10 seconds, saying 600,000 have been processed in the year since the app launched. He reports that the app has launched in a new town or city every week since it first appeared on the scene.
Relf is no stranger to digital innovation having been involved in several digital start-ups in other areas. The judges of the CINET Global Best Practice Awards 2016 felt Laundrapp is well on its way to becoming one of the world’s most exciting and successful start-ups and awarded it the Innovation Award, Textile Care.
Jack de Montaignac, chief commercial officer, Laundrapp, announced at the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers Scotish conference last month that that backers had invested £10 million into the business to enable it to grow, not only in the UK but throughout the world. Jack went on to say that the company mission statement was “To become the world’s leading on-demand digital laundry and dry cleaning platform”.
He explained that Laundrapp’s goal is to maintain exceptional customer services and bring professional laundry and dry cleaning to the customer’s door through regional partners. “The basis is not to chase prices down but to negotiate a fair price for the service with each. Since the launch in Jan 2015 we already have 42 vans in the London area alone, with a presence in 50 towns and cities.”