Business / Technology

Laundries making a clean break from past

By Zhong Nan in Beijing and Liu Mingtai in Changchun (China Daily) Updated: 2016-02-16 09:30

Promoting a local laundry business used to be labor-intensive. It generally required printing tons of posters and advertising leaflets, pasting them up and handing them out around the neighborhood, and then waiting for people to pitch up with tons of dirty washing.

But today's laundry industry is a lot more sophisticated, and that kind of outdated marketing campaign would deliver zero results, said Lao Chunyu, chairman of online clothes-washing business Jilin Renren Technology Co Ltd.

The industry is now dominated by smartphones and computers, and online promotion is the name of the game, he said.

Lao began operating in May last year, when he managed to build a database of nearly 11,500 regular customers, mainly white-collar workers, in Changchun, the capital and largest city of Jilin province.

Orders are placed through mobile app, and the items are collected by Jilin Renren staff who operate out of various points across the city.

The clothes are marked and categorized and sent to the company's laundries, which tumble, wash and dry, 24 hours a day. Customers get their fresh clothes delivered back within 48 and 72 hours for a standard service, quicker if urgent.

With 2,000 daily orders, the company also works with EMS, China Post's express service, to handle what is becoming a growing workload.

"The general public doesn't usually view the laundry industry a profitable one. But in fact 80 percent of our price is profit on each order, if properly managed," said Lao.

"It is only laundries that spend too much on rent, labor, water and electricity that end up not making a healthy return."

Jilin Renren has three large-scale plants, run under strict quality controls, he said.

Lao plans to expand the business to more cities, first in the northeast, where he says there is equally high demand for its services.

He puts that down to changes in lifestyle and shopping habits taking place across China, which have made convenience a priority for many, particularly if it can be bought via a smartphone.

New York-based research firm eMarketer Inc recently claimed 38.6 percent of residents in China will own a smartphone by the end of this year, representing a user base of 525.8 million, Lao said.

By 2019, eMarketer expects that figure to reach 687.7 million-meaning almost half the Chinese population, he added.

Figures also suggest that 70 percent of people living in Chinese cities will soon be able to use smartphone apps to pay their taxes and electricity bills this year, as well as more mundane tasks such as getting their laundry done.

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