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Four Ways to Handle Suedes & Leathers

Tom Lucenta |

Drycleaners must make difficult decisions about what to do with the suedes and leathers customers bring in for cleaning. You have four options, each with benefits and drawbacks.REFUSE TO TAKE THEM
If you refuse to take in suede and leather items, you’ll lose the income and profits you could realize from some of the highest-profit items that come across your counter. However, you won’t have responsibility for them, either, or any problems that occur.
You will also be admitting that you are not a full-service cleaner. You may send customers to a competitor, who will take their leathers — and maybe their drycleaning, too.ACCEPT THEM AND FARM THEM OUT
If you decide to take in suede and leather garments and send them to other operators to process for you, you’ll make some money. But you will also have to live with someone else’s work and quality standard, as well as someone else’s delivery schedule, which may not be up to the standards your customers expect.
Furthermore, you’ll be the one the customer holds responsible if something bad happens. If the wholesale work is good and the delivery times are short, you’re in good shape. If the work is not up to snuff, your customer will tell you.
To protect yourself, you must become familiar with the types and peculiarities of the suedes and leathers you accept, just like you know the types and peculiarities of different cloth items.FARM THEM OUT AND TRY TO IMPROVE UPON THE WORK
If you decide to improve on what others have done, you’ll be trying to: (1) improve the quality of pressing and/or (2) brighten and deepen the color of suede garments and trims, and restore shine to leather garments and trims. These tasks require substantial knowledge and specialized chemical products.CLEAN SOME OR ALL OF THEM YOURSELF
If you accept suedes and leathers and decide to do them yourself, you’ll be rewarded by making up to 10 times the cost (1,000% profit) on every item.
In order to successfully process suede and leather items, you’ll have to learn about the peculiarities of the skins from which they are made, just like you would if you sent them to others to clean. You’ll also have to become familiar with spotting, cleaning and pressing techniques for suedes and leathers.
If you also want to be able to restore torn, worn or faded suedes and leathers, you will also have to learn how to mend, sew, spray and dye.THE RESPONSIBILITY IS YOURS
Regardless of who does the work, when you decide to accept suedes and leathers for cleaning, you accept the responsibility for those garments. Your customer will hold you responsible for whatever happens — good or bad.
If you accept garments without accepting responsibility, you run a risk of claims resulting from lack of knowledge. It’s easy to promise or imply that you can do something to a suede or leather item that isn’t possible.
It’s no different from accepting cloth items. If you don’t know what’s possible in accepting a set of drapes, for example, you could promise or imply — without saying a word — that badly sun-bleached and rotten drapery linings will survive drycleaning without falling apart. They probably won’t.
You learned everything you could about the peculiarities of garments made of wool, silk, cotton and other fibers. If you learn the same things about suedes and leathers, you can avoid the problems and claims that result from improper procedures.
You can go to the school of hard knocks or learn from the experts, which is always faster, safer and less costly. Don’t experiment with your customers’ garments and pay claims that can cost you many times what a leather-cleaning class costs. Go to school and find out how to keep 100% of your suede and leather revenues.

About the author

Tom Lucenta

Royaltone Co. Inc.

Vice president

Tom Lucenta is vice president of Royaltone Co., a company specializing in techniques and products for cleaning leathers, suedes and furs. With his father, Frank, Tom trains operators to process leathers, suedes and furs using the Royaltone system; he has also written two texts on the subject, Handling Leather & Suede and Cleaning & Finishing Leather & Suede. Royaltone also offers a training DVD on wetcleaning leathers and suedes. The next live training session is scheduled for February 18-19, 2010. Call Royaltone at 918-622-6677 or e-mail tom@royaltone.com.

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