Richard McConnell gives us a flavour of his varied life as franchisee of The ZipYard Altrincham
The ZipYard offers a professional tailoring and alterations service in a clean, purpose build environment.
Our award winning business is all about outstanding customer service. While there’s no other specialist alterations and tailoring centre in the area, there’s numerous businesses offering similar services and competition is great.
As the top performing ZipYard and 2012 Franchisee of the Year, we have raised a total of 22,500 invoices. Turnover in the first year was £174,500 from 9,978 customers. In the 10 months to date of our second year, we are at £238,000 from 12,675 customers and on track to hit our target of £274,000 by year end.
As a former driving instructor, I am used to dealing with members of the public and take pride in my level of service, so when I decided on a career change I already had a very strong customer service ethos.
When we first opened, it was easy to turn jobs around quickly. But as word got round and our customer numbers soared, ensuring that customers were happy 100 per cent of the time became more difficult. We soon expanded our team of seamstresses from two to five and now employ eight full time.
Working in Cheshire, we are dealing with high end customers with high end expectations and it’s a great responsibility working on designer garments that are sometimes worth over £1,000.
Famous footballers and TV celebrities, including Coronation Street actress Sally Dynevor and presenter Gordon Burns, bring their garments to us. Everton player Marouane Fellaini is also one of our regulars.
We want our customers to believe that nothing is too much trouble. We don’t charge any extra for our express service and often carry out additional minor repairs for free. If one of the seamstresses notices a button needs replacing while they are turning up a hem, it takes very little additional time to do the complimentary work - and customers are always surprised and delighted.
When people come in off the street with a button that’s just come off, we’ll fix it there and then, again for no charge, confident in the knowledge he or she will regard us as a lifesaver and talk about The ZipYard to others.
The sophisticated till system included as part of the ZipYard package has a customer relationship management feature that tracks customers each time they come in and allows us to make notes. If a regular is getting ready to go on holiday, I can input this into the system.
Then I can wish them a happy holiday when they pick up their clothes and ask about it the next time they’re in. Building relationships is paramount and, as a result, the average repeat customer visits us about once a month. Some have used us over 200 times, spending several thousand pounds.
We frequently see brides who have bought dresses form the internet. On one occasion a woman came in to the centre in tears with a dress that fitted terribly. By the time we had finished, she was parading up and down with a big smile on her face. Another customer spent over £400 altering her wardrobe after a successful diet and an elderly lady brought in all of her clothes to be taken in - all bundled into storage boxes and carried up the high street to us.
Nowadays very few people have the time or skill to mend their own clothes and a lot of our work involves repairs. But even I was surprised when one of our regular customers brought in a pair of her son’s Y-fronts for us to fix a tear.
Recently we dealt with 90 paying customers in one day, which is ten an hour. We already open seven days a week, are looking to employ another seamstress to focus full time on express work and have installed a second till to cope with the queues that had begun to form outside the door during busy periods.
At the moment I manage ZipYard with the help of one other person, but I will be recruiting additional customer facing staff to free me up to do more marketing and work on plans to open another ZipYard in the north west.