A new discount dry cleaner has arrived in the Twin Cities with plans to clean up with low prices.
Chicago-based CD One Price Cleaners is shaking up a relatively quiet Twin Cities scene with a simple pricing strategy — $2.99 for any dry-cleaned garment and $1.99 for any laundered and pressed shirt.
A Hopkins location opened last week, but the company plans to add three to four additional locations in the suburbs, one St. Paul site and one or two Minneapolis sites, said Tom Ryan, vice president of franchise development for CD One Price.
With prices lower than almost any local competitor, Ryan describes the concept as the “classic low margin, make it up in volume” business.
“We’re the Costco of the dry-cleaning business,” Ryan said. “We’re 40 to 50 percent less on average than the traditional cleaner.”
Ryan said the company’s average store in Chicago does $975,000 in volume annually compared to the national average of $250,000 to $275,000. Needing to clean four times the volume of a typical store, CD One wants to attract customers with services beyond price.
Most discount dry cleaners, including CD One Price, require prepayment when dropping off clothes, but unlike many discount cleaners, CD accepts MasterCard and Visa. It also is launching what is often a low-tech, low-profile mom and pop into modernity.
It’s taking an old idea brought about by One Hour Martinizing — same-day service — and updating it with technology. Any order brought in by 10 a.m. is ready no later than 5 p.m. the same day. The customer provides an e-mail address and as soon as the order is complete, an e-mail is sent to the customer. Text alerts aren’t available yet, Ryan said, but they’re working on it.
Like One Hour Martinizing, CD One Price cleans all garments on site. Nothing is sent to a central cleaning facility, the most common business practice.
Curt Olson, who owns five of the nearly 20 Clean’n’Press locations in the Twin Cities, said that he’s not happy to see the new competitor in the market.
“It muddies up the water,” he said, “I have to worry about any business with deep pockets that wants to make a big splash.”
He’s willing to match CD’s prices in some cases, but he wonders how long their $1.99/$2.99 prices will stick. New businesses often promote a low price to build their business, but once they’re established, they raise it, Olson said.
CD, which started in 2001, used to charge $1.75 for dry cleaning, Ryan said, and then raised it over the years to $2.29, $2.49 and $2.79 in Chicago. “We try to hold prices for a three-year cycle,” said. “Our last increase was seven months ago in Chicago.”
Dry-cleaning services often see wide differences between low- and high-priced shops, said Kevin Brasler of Consumer’s Checkbook, a nonprofit organization that rates local service providers.
In the Twin Cities, for example, dry cleaning a woman’s knee-length rayon dress without pleats or sleeves ranged from $3.59 to $16.99. “We found little correlation between high prices and higher quality,” Brasler said.
Laurel Arnold of St. Paul recently spent nearly $70 to dry clean four dresses. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It made me want to start comparing prices. And avoiding dry-clean only garments.”
CD is also hoping to attract women who feel discriminated against at cleaners that charge more to clean a woman’s blouse than a man’s shirt. Checkbook found that the average price paid in the Twin Cities to launder and press a man’s shirt was $2.65 while a woman’s shirt was $4.37.
CD charges $1.99 to launder and press a shirt, regardless of size. It went with one-price because women make many of the dry cleaning decisions, Ryan said. “We want to win her over.”
The reason that women’s blouses cost more to clean is that sizes 6 or smaller don’t fit standard presses and require more labor with hand-pressing. But some cleaners today say they only charge more if they can’t fit the shirt or blouse on the standard press, regardless of whether it’s a small man’s or woman’s shirt.
Ryan said that at a time when many cleaners won’t even post prices, they want to take away the guesswork with standardized prices for men and women.
Whether the garment is a man’s long wool winter coat or a woman’s pleated skirt, the price is $2.99. While CD gets high marks for low prices in Chicago from Checkbook, its subscribers give it average to below-average marks for quality.
The company’s Hopkins location uses hydrocarbon-based solvents, not perchloroethylene, or perc. Hydrocarbon cleans as well as perc but is still not considered “green,” according to Checkbook, because of its volatile organic compounds (VOC) content. Checkbook recommends liquid carbon dioxide or wet cleaning as greener alternatives.
CD isn’t an all-purpose dry cleaner. It doesn’t clean wedding dresses, household items or leather, but it will starch jeans for anyone who wants them as stiff as cardboard. “For an extra 30 cents,” Ryan said.