Hangers Cleaners Wants to Be McDonald's of Dry Cleaning Market

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Hangers Cleaners, Raleigh, NC, is using a multiple-channel ad campaign to take the next step in establishing itself as a national chain in the traditionally fragmented dry cleaning industry.


The $1 million promotion consists of print ads and 10,000 direct mail pieces along with a scattering of Internet ads. The promotions will run through November and are designed to persuade successful business professionals to become franchisees in the company.


The print ads are running in financial publications such as Fortune, Business Week, Entrepreneur and Money. The mail piece is being sent to a list of professionals in business management who might want to own and oversee a Hangers Cleaners franchise.


Franchisee candidates will need at least $200,000 to open a store. While not the focus of the ad campaign, the company also is looking to bring established citywide chains under the Hangers Cleaners tent.


"We need people who want to call their own shots -- entrepreneurial types [who] have been successful business professionals, but now want to be their own boss," said Kirk Kinsell, president/CEO of the firm. "Or, as another example, maybe somebody who wants to start a business that can stay in the family."


The company did not reveal the number of franchisees it hopes to attract.


The print ads and direct mail pieces are quirky and tongue in cheek, said Didi O'Boyle, director of database marketing at Howard, Merrell & Partners, the firm that handled design. The direct mail literature comes in an 18-inch-wide triangle box that says, "Nope, it's not a boomerang ... But it could bring you great returns" on its top. The box contains a coat hanger and a graphic-laden brochure suggesting that the dry cleaning industry has the same franchising potential as fast food and hardware stores.


Hangers Cleaners, a subsidiary of Micell Technologies, has 32 storefronts under five franchisees. The stores are in Lincoln, NE; Providence, RI; and the North Carolina cities of Raleigh, Wilmington and Greensboro.


The recently launched ad campaigns are targeting Cincinnati; Nashville, TN; New Orleans; Orange City, CA; and San Jose, CA.


Dry cleaning has traditionally been an industry of mom-and-pop stores. However, there have been recent signs that could suggest the market is becoming more nationally consolidated.


Web-based dry cleaning start-up PurpleTie Inc. said earlier this year that it planned to have a presence in every major U.S. market. Zoots, another recently launched Internet-based cleaner, has made aggressive expansions in Northeastern states. One Hour Martinizing, Cincinnati, has more than 700 stores worldwide.


There is room for additional national players in the dry cleaning industry, said Michael Gates, director of operations at Martin Franchises, which is the parent of One Hour Martinizing.


"Wendy's proved more than one company could make money selling hamburgers -- didn't they?" he said.
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