When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, high-street traders everywhere were hit with enormous challenges. Dry cleaners were one of the designated essential industries, but with many people on furlough or working from home, and with social events and holidays cancelled, how would a dry cleaning business survive?
Local, award-winning company, Peters’ Cleaners, explains how the business has adapted and its expansion ambitions are undaunted despite the lockdown.
Peters’ Cleaners has been dry cleaning clothes and household items for the residents of Peterborough and the surrounding area for over 57 years.
It remains Peterborough and Stamford’s most trusted dry cleaner with regular customers travelling from Cambridge, Birmingham, London and Derby.
The company has grown significantly since Vicky Whiter took over in June 2016, injecting funds and energy into the business. Since then, the business has won no less than five awards including Best Independent Retailer, Best Dry Cleaner in Cambridgeshire and two awards for outstanding customer service.
2018 and 2019 were exciting years for Peters’ Cleaners. Sales increased, investments were made in new equipment and the country’s first 24/7 automated drop-off and pick-up for dry cleaning was launched at Peterborough’s leading shopping destination, Serpentine Green.
Plans and preparations were being put in place for further expansion when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. The business landscape abruptly changed and the company had to quickly adapt.
Vicky said: “Dry cleaners are classified as an essential industry so while all other dry cleaners in the area closed their doors, we were determined not to let our customers down. We remained open and found it rewarding to be able to help people whose washing machines had broken and others too ill to do their own laundry.”
The shops are offering a full range of services of dry cleaning, laundry and repairs/alterations but have reduced opening hours. The automated unit at Serpentine Green remains open 24/7 and continues to be popular. Customers can sign up online to receive a membership card that enables them to activate the drop-off door and deposit a bag of cleaning.
Peters’ Cleaners collects all items and cleans and presses them to their high standards. When the items are ready for return, customers are notified by email and use their card to activate the pick-up door to collect their items.
The unit at Serpentine Green is ideal for customers that do not want human contact and can be used at any time of the day or night, seven days a week. It is conveniently located next to the Barber’s Pod, away from the entrance queues.
However, keeping the shops open has been challenging for the business. There has naturally been a fall in demand for traditional dry cleaning. With so many people furloughed or working from home, weddings postponed and parties and holidays cancelled, the demand for dry cleaning has fallen dramatically. Aided by Government grants, Peters’ Cleaners has responded by furloughing staff and working on reduced opening hours.
“Our primary concern was to ensure the safety of all staff and customers,” said Vicky. “We stopped taking cash and did all transactions via our computerised till system, which means customers and staff can remain two metres apart at all times. We also have a system in our factory that ensures workers are isolated from each other.”
Vicky strongly believes that communication is key at this time when things are moving so quickly.
Specifically, she believes that it is important for customers to know when Peters’ Cleaners is open, what services are offered and what the business is doing to ensure customers and staff stay safe.
Peters’ Cleaners is keeping everyone updated through regular updates on its website www.peterscleaners.co.uk, and through daily updates on its social media pages on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.
Whilst Peters’ Cleaners was able to react quickly and adapt to the new challewww.peterscleaners.co.uknging trading environment, this doesn’t mean that Vicky’s ambition for the future of the business has diminished.
A second 24/7 unit is nearly ready to launch at Peterborough Station.
“The equipment is manufactured in Italy and due to the coronavirus pandemic we are unable to ship it to the UK at the moment,” said Vicky. However, Italy is open again and we are in touch with them daily as we are keen to get the unit operational and in place at the station in time for when commuters start returning to work.”