A virtual coffee break with… Julian Stone from ADCC

Normally the team at Laundry & Cleaning Today would be out and about meeting with industry businesses of all sizes, across the country to find out all about what they do.

Instead we’re picking up the phone and having a chat to find out about the impact of COVID-19 on their business and what plans they’re making for the future.

Tell us a bit about you …

In the late 80’s I was on a BUNAC exchange programme and ended up spending my summer in San Antonio, Texas. One of my jobs was driving for a drycleaning and laundry company, serving all its 22 stores across the state. Having graduated in Microbiology with Genetics in 1990, I was signed up to do a law conversion course. Whilst waiting to start my course, from my American experience I printed leaflets and distributed them myself for a shirt pressing service with the added touch of free collection and delivery to your door … 30 years later I never got to practice law!

Tell us about your business (pre COVID-19) …

I opened my first shop in the American Embassy, Grosvenor Square – I convinced the Americans and got the gig! Thirty years later I’ve built up and run the largest drycleaning and laundry company in London, a multi award winning brand with over 40 branches in prime locations across the capital and employing over 200 colleagues. My wife joined me in the business in 1998. I am the wild one with crazy ideas, while Lucy is the realistic and organised one, creating induction and training programmes to general workflow and housekeeping in the CPU and branches. Over the 25 years we have been an excellent combo.

The sustained growth and expansion of the business has been purely organic and self-funded – delivering an upmarket high end eco driven service of non-toxic drycleaning and laundry services, together with personal alterations and repairs with tailors at every location, as well as also servicing many five star London hotels and entering the world of collection and delivery via our website and app. The ethos from the beginning was to invest in continual training for our colleagues and reduce our carbon footprint, supported by investment for energy efficiency conservation, water and solvent recycling, and reduction of single use plastics.

How has COVID-19 affected your business?

We were doing ok – year on year sales were up, we were opening new branches and investing in new kit. The challenge leading up to COVID was staff recruitment to support our expansion – Brexit was the big topic at the time (seems ages ago now), so the pool of staff was getting less and less in London. COVID hit us like a wall by mid-March.

Like every business owner I have faced challenges over the last 30 years – interest spiking to 17 per cent, recession of the 90s, 9/11, Gulf Wars, the financial crash, less high street footfall pre-COVID and untenable business rates – to name but a few.

This now seems like a walk in the park with what I’ve had to contend with over the last four months. Decisions that would have taken months, now taken in hours. I understood mid-March that all the branches and operations had to close and staff furloughed. With sales revenue having stopped overnight, I had to achieve four main goals fast. Get a large cash injection to trade through lockdown, holiday repayments on existing commercial loans, reduce my labour expenditure, and renegotiate my legally binding lease obligations with landlords. These discussions threw up a lot of surprises. Many of the smaller landlords were extremely understanding as we have been good reliable tenants for many years. The larger landlords were less so, and much less pleasant to deal with. Now that we have opened, we are working on reduced hours, have further developed our online presence with apps and invested more time and money into social media advertising.

How will COVID-19 change your future business?

It has definitely given me a long time to reflect about our business. We have realised that we need to reduce our number of branches and reduce trading hours. I was taken aback when it became apparent that a lot of our customers are very loyal and are willing to work around our current not so customer friendly trading hours. It is unfortunate but I feel for the next 18 months business will not really improve, until people get back to offices, start to go to restaurants, and international travel and hotel occupancy improves. It will be the survival of the fittest I’m afraid.

Our business will go more online due to customer behaviour. We will continue on our journey to provide the best quality and service we can to all of our customers. This is being achieved with continued investment in our colleagues and continued R&D projects to reduce wastage, reduce single use plastics and increase our recycling and energy saving.

Normally the team at Laundry & Cleaning Today would be out and about meeting with industry businesses of all sizes, across the country to find out all about what they do.

Instead we’re picking up the phone and having a chat to find out about the impact of COVID-19 on their business and what plans they’re making for the future.

Tell us a bit about you …

In the late 80’s I was on a BUNAC exchange programme and ended up spending my summer in San Antonio, Texas. One of my jobs was driving for a drycleaning and laundry company, serving all its 22 stores across the state. Having graduated in Microbiology with Genetics in 1990, I was signed up to do a law conversion course. Whilst waiting to start my course, from my American experience I printed leaflets and distributed them myself for a shirt pressing service with the added touch of free collection and delivery to your door … 30 years later I never got to practice law!

Tell us about your business (pre COVID-19) …

I opened my first shop in the American Embassy, Grosvenor Square – I convinced the Americans and got the gig! Thirty years later I’ve built up and run the largest drycleaning and laundry company in London, a multi award winning brand with over 40 branches in prime locations across the capital and employing over 200 colleagues. My wife joined me in the business in 1998. I am the wild one with crazy ideas, while Lucy is the realistic and organised one, creating induction and training programmes to general workflow and housekeeping in the CPU and branches. Over the 25 years we have been an excellent combo.

The sustained growth and expansion of the business has been purely organic and self-funded – delivering an upmarket high end eco driven service of non-toxic drycleaning and laundry services, together with personal alterations and repairs with tailors at every location, as well as also servicing many five star London hotels and entering the world of collection and delivery via our website and app. The ethos from the beginning was to invest in continual training for our colleagues and reduce our carbon footprint, supported by investment for energy efficiency conservation, water and solvent recycling, and reduction of single use plastics.

How has COVID-19 affected your business?

We were doing ok – year on year sales were up, we were opening new branches and investing in new kit. The challenge leading up to COVID was staff recruitment to support our expansion – Brexit was the big topic at the time (seems ages ago now), so the pool of staff was getting less and less in London. COVID hit us like a wall by mid-March.

Like every business owner I have faced challenges over the last 30 years – interest spiking to 17 per cent, recession of the 90s, 9/11, Gulf Wars, the financial crash, less high street footfall pre-COVID and untenable business rates – to name but a few.

This now seems like a walk in the park with what I’ve had to contend with over the last four months. Decisions that would have taken months, now taken in hours. I understood mid-March that all the branches and operations had to close and staff furloughed. With sales revenue having stopped overnight, I had to achieve four main goals fast. Get a large cash injection to trade through lockdown, holiday repayments on existing commercial loans, reduce my labour expenditure, and renegotiate my legally binding lease obligations with landlords. These discussions threw up a lot of surprises. Many of the smaller landlords were extremely understanding as we have been good reliable tenants for many years. The larger landlords were less so, and much less pleasant to deal with. Now that we have opened, we are working on reduced hours, have further developed our online presence with apps and invested more time and money into social media advertising.

How will COVID-19 change your future business?

It has definitely given me a long time to reflect about our business. We have realised that we need to reduce our number of branches and reduce trading hours. I was taken aback when it became apparent that a lot of our customers are very loyal and are willing to work around our current not so customer friendly trading hours. It is unfortunate but I feel for the next 18 months business will not really improve, until people get back to offices, start to go to restaurants, and international travel and hotel occupancy improves. It will be the survival of the fittest I’m afraid.

Our business will go more online due to customer behaviour. We will continue on our journey to provide the best quality and service we can to all of our customers. This is being achieved with continued investment in our colleagues and continued R&D projects to reduce wastage, reduce single use plastics and increase our recycling and energy saving.

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