CHICAGO — Enough from the national press! If someone dies, they cover it. If there’s violence, they cover it. If the economy crashes and burns, they cover it. But if there’s slow, localized economic improvement, they don’t cover it.
If we rely on television and newspapers to tell us what to do next, we’re in trouble. It’s up to us to anticipate the future and begin to move forward. We are the experts in our own markets, and should know what to expect from them.
It will be to your advantage to anticipate the timing of a recovery, and do so before your competition. Too early, and you’ll waste money. Too late, and you’ll lose your competitive advantage. But how can you be the “Goldilocks” of your market, and find a time that’s “just right?”
Ignore the experts. They would like you to believe that the unemployment rate was 10% in May. But according to the Department of Labor, unemployment among blacks was 15.5%; 8.8% of whites and 12.4% of Hispanics were jobless. The rate for adult men was 9.8%, the rate for adult women was 8.1%, and more than one-quarter of teenagers (26.4%) were unemployed.
The unemployment rate also varies depending on where you live—34 states were below the 9.5% national average in May, with North Dakota at a low 3.6%. More local still, unemployment rates in Indiana ranged from 13.6% in Fayette County to only 7.0% in Monroe County, 85 miles away.
More than ever before in economic history, it is important to understand your community. Retail drycleaning is not a national business; it is a neighborhood business, and it is not appropriate to make a “neighborhood” decision based on national results. While customers are affected by national events, local developments have an impact, too.
How many new foreclosures are happening in your community? Has any new construction broken ground? Are new building permits being issued? Are local banks issuing small-business loans? These are the precursors to new construction, new jobs, new optimism and new drycleaning sales.
Customers are eager to hear good news. Give it to them—tell them about your people, your good deeds and how you’re going “green.”
There are a number of websites that concentrate on good news where you can find ideas about what to publicize. The Good News Gazette (www.goodnewsgazette.net), for instance, recently did a story on the Fred Scarf Foundation, which organizes a free prom every year for teens with life-threatening illnesses.
The Happy News (www.happynews.com) did an article on SoleRebels, a company that repurposes old rubber tires to make shoes, supporting employment in Ethiopia. And the Good News Network (www.goodnewsnetwork.org), told how a group of teens found a woman’s purse with more than $7,000 in cash in it, and returned it to the owner.
Drycleaners often have similar good-news experiences. Contributing dresses to the Fred Scarf Foundation’s prom is a perfect tie-in to a great cause. A recycling program is a good story, especially if you can estimate how many hangers you’ve recycled. Which customer brought back the 1 millionth hanger? Finding valuables in pockets is common for drycleaners—return them and share the story with others.
Distributing your good news doesn’t have to be expensive. It can start slowly as a press release in the local paper. You can explore Facebook, Twitter and the classic lettered sign. Hangtags and other inexpensive options can help spread positive messages that take drycleaning from a chore to a “top-of-mind” to-do that brings customers back.
Customers are wearing clothes longer to economize, but they hate making these compromises as much as you hate not seeing them. They may be embarrassed to come back, so reach out and welcome them with open arms. Positive action will help you, your staff and your customers to enjoy the business of drycleaning again.