It's a Shame About Zoots

Today I read the shocking news that Zoots, an innovative dry cleaning company from the Boston area, has apparently experienced a total collapse.
At its height early last year, Zoots was one of the country's biggest chains, with about 75 stores and roughly 115 delivery routes across eight states, serving more than 300,000 customers. Now, the $65 million company is in pieces, with stores and delivery routes being sold off to rivals across the country. The private Zoots corporation, which finally turned a profit in late 2006, dissolved quietly in April. Two former executives bought 17 local stores and the rights to use the Zoots name.
When I first learned about Zoots in the late 90s, I was impressed and excited at the unique approach they took to the dry cleaning business. Like many people, I had a number of bad experiences with a variety of small shops in the past, and when I tried Zoots it was a totally different experience.

The stores were modern, they offered 24/7 pickup and drop off, they had all customer information in a database and you could drop shirts off without any instructions, they used a barcode system (a small sticker on the shirttail) to track everything, and they even developed a home delivery service. They also did a better, more consistent job with my clothes, and never lost or ruined a thing. Their customer service was great and consistent from store to store, and they even offered email and phone reminders when an order was ready.

I don't know everything that went into the collapse of the company, but it's a disappointment that such an ambitious idea that worked so well for me has failed. The Boston Globe article mentions that they had a high rate of clothing damage and loss, but I never saw that side. All I saw was a company with a great product, great service, and a ground-breaking business model.

I hope that some of the innovations they made will be adopted by the industry as a whole, because I'm leery of going back to a mom & pop shop that ruins my shirt and then claims up and down that it was already ruined when I dropped it off. Ooohhh, that incident still burns me up to this day...


Jenn Casey said...

...but it's a disappointment that such an ambitious idea that worked so well for me has failed.

My feelings about Webvan exactly. Oh, I still miss it!

Lynne said...

I always wondered how they could make money. Now I know - they didn't. That fleet of purple vans with constant stop-and-go city trips had to cost a lot to maintain - an expense other cleaners don't have. If I remember correctly (the one time I used them), the prices weren't much higher for all that customer convenience.