CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you offer a successful laundry drop-off service, you may have wondered more than once if there isn’t something else you can offer.“If people want you to wash their clothes, why not alterations and garment repair?” asks Larry Lieberman of B & G Lieberman Co., a company specializing in alteration equipment and supplies.“People don’t have the time to do things at home. There is a niche market where people are buying less expensive clothing and not repairing it, but there is also a higher-end market where customers also seek more drycleaning and tailoring. In coin laundries you are also looking at people trying to maximize the life of their clothing.”PROS AND CONSIf you are going to start an alterations/repair service at your coin laundry, you should think about a couple of things, Lieberman says. “You should offer basic repairs and alterations. The typical customer wants a zipper put in, a button put on and some hemming on slacks or a skirt.“The positive is that you are adding a new revenue stream and giving the attendant more things to do. My biggest fear would be finding the right person to do the work and evaluating this person’s skills.“You should pay them above minimum wage ($7 to $8 an hour, for example). You might even want to set up some type of commission deal.”Since old-country tailors are not exactly growing on trees, you must find a talented seamstress or train a person to make sure he/she has the skills to produce quality work in the time required. “This person should have knowledge of how garments are put together, be comfortable around a sewing machine and have a desire to learn. We even offer books on alteration training.”There are production standards available that you can use. For example, Lieberman believes that an experienced seamstress or tailor should be able to alter the length of a pair of pants with a blindstitch machine in five to six minutes (with no cuff).“The important thing is to make sure you sit with a prospective employee and time him/her on some of these alterations on ‘dead stock’ before you hire him/her.”Once you get your service established, you can look at different payment methods. “You can rent space to a contract tailor, and he can supply the equipment and trimmings, or you can. You can pay by the piece, by the hour, or by a percentage of gross. You can even farm out some work to a wholesale tailor.“I prefer to pay the seamstress by the hour and keep it in-house, keeping an accurate piece count of work produced.”READY TO ROLLAn alterations/repair work area requires about 100 to 150 square feet of space, he says. As for equipment, Lieberman recommends an industrial straight-stitch, a blind-hemmer (full or portable) and an iron. You will need threads, zippers, buttons, etc. The amount and type of supplies required depend on volume.Lieberman believes you can start out with a few hundred dollars worth of supplies, and with the equipment cost, the tab for this new service (a one-person operation) can be around $1,400.PROMOTING AND PRICINGWhile good signage is key in promoting this service, you need your seamstress and attendants to simply ask, “Are there any repairs or alterations needed on these clothes?”“Give your employees incentive to mention your service. Mailings can also help. In two or three months you should be able to establish some business.”The typical customer will probably want a zipper, some hemming or pants altered, he says. “The average customer may spend about $15 to $20 dollars.”Lieberman stresses the importance of knowing how long each job takes. “Figure the time it takes to finish the job and charge three times the hourly wage rate plus 20 percent to cover fringes and overhead. One-third goes for labor, one-third for supplies and amortization of equipment, and one-third is your profit.“For example, if it takes 15 minutes to sew in a pants zipper and you pay $8 an hour wage rate, the formula is $2 labor cost x 3 + 20 percent = $7.20. This is your base price. Now you always want to say $7.20 and up because there are more complex jobs and special circumstances that you must charge more for.”TOUGH COMPETITION?Is it worth trying to compete with a drycleaner down the street who offers repairs and alterations? Lieberman brushes off this line of thinking. “You don’t have to compete with drycleaning. Keep in mind that some coin laundries offer drop-off drycleaning. If you offer a good service you may even get some new laundry customers.”Lieberman offers these observations:• In terms of getting off the ground with new services, Lieberman doesn’t know if it’s necessary to offer discounts. “I think it’s more important to inform and educate customers that you can fix their clothing.”• You don’t have to offer every service. Stick with the more common alterations. The average coin laundry customer will probably want simple alteration jobs.• Adding some type of press to your laundry may improve your profits.