P&G cleans up

From dry cleaners to car washes, Procter & Gamble is franchising trust.

Dry cleaning and the car wash are two of the last bastions of the mom-and-pop enterprise. But Procter & Gamble has come up with a plan designed to appeal to consumers weary of unrecognizable independent shops and inconsistent service, by leveraging two of the most recognizable brands in cleaning products.

P&G spent three years developing its franchise plan, beginning in 2007 with the introduction of a pair of Mr. Clean Car Wash outlets in Cincinnati, one of which can now be purchased for just under $5 million. Then, in 2008, P&G chose Kansas City to test three Tide Dry Cleaners locations, and now that it has ironed out the process, it’s ready to expand Tide franchises across the United States.

But if the owners of Tide or Mr. Clean franchises don’t offer consistently high-quality service, P&G’s good name has the farthest to fall. The company spends more on advertising each year than any other company in the U.S. and has worked hard to solidify the reputations of both brands. Nevertheless, P&G is betting consumers will like the idea of making environmentally friendly choices (Tide cleaners won’t use perchloroethylene solvent), and the ability to trust where they take their clothes and cars, knowing the brand is backed by the venerable company behind the operations.