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How to run a successful dry cleaners

BusinessesForSale talks to Michael Bate of Northern Cleaners in Johannesburg

Most dry cleaners are family businesses and Johannesburg’s Northern Cleaners is no exception.

Michael Bate is the current generation to run the shop, his grandfather having established it in the 1950s.  

Bate is proud of his family's legacy '...with all the experience, hands-on supervision and dedication which earmarks a family concern.’ Yet he didn’t commit to the company until he knew he was definitely ready:

‘After I finished school in ’86 I didn’t go straight back to it,’ he tells us. ‘I signed up to the army, travelled and worked in the US and Europe for just over two years. In 1991, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to the industry.’ asked him what it takes to run a successful dry-cleaning business:

Always update...

The main challenge that Michael has faced in running a dry cleaners is serving a client’s very specific needs:

‘Every item brought in is of a different nature, texture, etc. so you also have to make sure that you’re keeping the machinery updated to deal with the varied requirements.

‘We aim to use the best possible chemicals and keep the image of being the company amongst the top cleaners in the country.’


It seems you cannot bank on a steady demand for dry-cleaning clothes throughout the year, so offering other services is key to survival:

‘Diversifying into all aspects of the cleaning industry has been great,’ Michael says. ‘Dry cleaning in South Africa is very seasonal, so we’ve had to branch out into other areas of cleaning. For example, we generally receive less during the summer months as people wear a lot of “wash ‘n wear” items during these months. In the winter we become busy with jackets, jerseys, coats, scarves, etc. from both ladies and gents.' 

'In order to even out the spread of work over the 12 month period, we’ve started laundry contract work, curtain cleaning, and carpet and upholstery cleaning services.’

Keep your customers 100% happy ...

‘Service, service, service.' Michael states definitively. ‘By offering a guaranteed clean and on-time service, you won’t go wrong and they’ll keep coming back to you.’

And finally... always be prepared!

Michael believes that preparation is the most vital element in running a lucrative dry-cleaning business:

‘Get the correct training upfront for both you and your staff. You should make sure that the operating staff are all trained and acknowledge the ultimate goal of the company… which, for us, is Good Clean Prompt Neat Service!’

If you’re interested in purchasing a dry-cleaning business, have a look at our dry cleaners for sale in South Africa.

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