WDF 101: Back to Basics, Part 2

By Jeff Gardner, CLA Member posted 04-27-2018 14:37

Consistently Folding and Professionally Packaging Your Customers’ Garments Are Keys to a Successful Wash-Dry-Fold Business

[This is the second in a series on running a successful wash-dry-fold service. Part One appeared in the April issue.]

Last time, I discussed how to start a wash-dry-fold business within your vended laundry, as well as washing, drying and tracking orders. Now, I’d like to focus on folding and then packaging the finished product.

The principle I’ve always taught my employees is to have our wash-dry-fold customers’ items look and feel like they’re brand new, direct from the retailer.

As a result, I pay close attention to how garments look on the shelves and on the racks of today’s top retailers. For instance, we might present a finished button-down shirt on a hanger rather than folding it, because that’s likely how you’ll see that type of garment displayed at a retailer.

Also, golf shirts, polo shirts, and T-shirts are folded in a very specific way – with the collar showing, not folded in half. Again, this is because that’s how those shirts look when they’re brand new just out of a bag or on a retail shelf.

At my laundry, socks are simply folded in half, with their heels showing. We don’t stuff a pair of socks inside themselves as a way of keeping a pair together, because many customers believe (incorrectly) that this type of folding ruins the socks’ elasticity.

Therefore, we have always just folded the socks in half, so customers won’t get the impression that we ruined their socks – even though the fact of the matter is that a sock’s elasticity is broken down by the number of washes and dries it endures. The breakdown of elasticity has very little, if anything, to do with the fact that it gets slightly stretched out when rolled into itself. However, that’s the strong perception of many customers, and we want to keep them happy and prevent any potential negative conversations on this matter.

When we fold jeans, we make sure that the label on the back is what’s showing when these garments are presented to the customer. We want that brand prominently displayed so that the customer can easily figure out which pair of jeans is which, once they’re stored at home. Also, jeans are expensive and can carry a sense of status, and we want to respect the label and brand that each customer has spent his or her money on.

Folding sheets is always a challenge. As with all wash-dry-fold items, when we fold sheets, we try to make them look brand new. I’ve created a video that’s available through the Coin Laundry Association that shows how to fold a sheet set, including fitted sheets. In addition, there are a number of videos online to guide you. Above all, develop a uniformed way to train your employees to fold sheets consistently so that they look new and can be stored in a nice orderly manner. By folding them correctly, they’ll take up much less space, they’ll look better, and the customer will greatly appreciate it.

As for towels, we fold them the same way you would see them in a fine hotel. Once again, we’re trying to create an experience for our customers. With large bath towels, we’ll do a triple or quadruple fold (depending on the length of the towel), folding the outside edges in so that they are invisible.

After folding, the next step is packaging the finished product to be presented to the customer.

Currently, there are a couple of manufacturers I know of that make custom wash-dry-fold bags, and they offer excellent, sustainable products for placing finished garments in an organized and attractive manner. These bags will hold the folded work you’ve done, and keep it organized – giving you the ability to present your finished wash-dry-fold product to your customers in a branded, professional-looking bag featuring your label and messaging.

Many laundry owners use traditional “counter bags,” which are commonly used by drycleaners. These bags also can be custom-printed and are another great option for presenting finished wash-dry-fold garments to your customers. These bags are a bit less expensive than the customized wash-dry-fold bags; then again, the customized bags feature flat bottoms and have been truly designed to hold wash-dry-fold loads. Either one of these options is acceptable.

In addition, most drycleaning suppliers carry paper bags to be used for shirt laundry. These bags are designed specifically to hold folded shirts, and they are great to have on hand at your store. They’re inexpensive and a nice way to package up a finished product. The folded and bagged shirts will fit nicely on a shelf, and you can display the claim tag to easily recognize the order. It’s another great way to present your work. In fact, some operators package all of their wash-dry-fold orders in these bags. And you also can buy clear plastic ones that are a bit larger.

Another option I’ve seen some laundry owners use is packaging their wash-dry-fold in clear, zippered comforter bags. Although this treatment can present a nice-looking finished package, I’m not a huge fan of this option simply because there is no real way to control the size of what’s going into the bag. In other words, you will either have a full bag or a partially full bag – and, unless the bag is full, there is no way to make the contents inside look neat and professional; you just never know the size of the wash-dry-fold orders you’re going to get. However, from an appearance standpoint, a fully packed, well-folded comforter bag can look very good.

One practice I would strongly warn against is placing a customer’s finished laundry into any type of garbage bag – or anything that resembles or feels even remotely like a garbage bag. When you do so, the subliminal message you’re sending the customer is either that the work you’ve done for them is garbage or that their clothing is garbage. Either way, it’s not a good message to send and it’s a terrible image for your business.

When teaching others about the wash-dry-fold business, I always stress how important first impressions are in any sales process or at the beginning of any relationship – and, truly, the “first impression” we give our wash-dry-fold customers is that package of finished laundry, when we hand it back to them.

Of course, they may develop some first impressions when they first walk in the store and interact with your staff. But they’re primarily going to judge you on that first impression they get when receiving the finished product back in their hands – how you present it to them, the effort you’ve put into training your employees in the folding process, the packaging you’ve chosen, and how the total finished product makes them feel. That’s what they’re going to remember.

In my next column, I’ll provide some insight into the soaps and detergents to use in your wash-dry-fold service, as well as some tips for building this segment of your business.