Getting to Know Your Distributor (Part 1)

Diana Vollmer |

Making the most of a valuable drycleaner resource

SAN FRANCISCO — Dry cleaners have a valuable resource close at hand that may be overlooked or, at best, be taken for granted.

Distributors not only provide the products, supplies and equipment needed in your daily operations but they also have an abundance of experience and knowledge at their disposal to aid in making your operations more successful. It is like having a gold mine waiting to be excavated.

Many of the important offerings of distributors are taken for granted:

Timely Service — Distributors strive to provide immediate service to their clientele because they are aware of the disruption to your business when supplies run short, a piece of equipment breaks down, or uncontrollable outside influences—i.e. the city unexpectedly changes the water supply or the air quality board changes the environmental regulations—affect the business. They can also be called upon when you have emergency staff turnover in a key position like the cleaner/spotter.

Just-in-Time Delivery — Having the products readily available and stored in the distributor’s warehouse allows for you to order just the necessary amount of inventory that you anticipate using in the immediate future, thereby keeping your stock turnover high, your expenses in check and your supplies fresh and current.

Product Sourcing — There may be a product you believe to be needed but you have no obvious source for it. Ask your distributor to locate it for you. They have networks for this service and can also benefit from adding a useful product to their line.

Ability to Test New Products Upon Introduction — One of the beneficial services provided by distributors is the testing of new products to determine which ones are effective so that you don’t have to do the initial testing on everything in-house.

The neutral environment generally can allow for control the components of the tests for more reliable and predictive results. A distributor’s network of operators also contributes a source of information about results that can be applied to your situation.

New-Equipment Introductions — New equipment is conveniently introduced through the distributors if you are unable or unwilling to attend the national and regional shows. The newest models might be exhibited at the distribution center or possibly showcased at your location or at the plant of another local operator.

Troubleshooting — Because of their collective years of experience in the industry, and the extensive training provided to the distributors and their representatives, they can often contribute their expertise to quickly and effectively find the source of a breakdown in the cleaning processes and procedures. This can save enormous amounts of time and money, not to mention saved downtime in the plant and the rest of your distribution chain downstream of the plant.

Optimizing the Cleaning Operation — Conversely, due to that same expertise, they can make suggestions to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations.

Distributors are available to share their knowledge by training your staff to be better at their jobs and to be able to handle unique situations that arise in this challenging industry where every piece requires singular treatment.

Sales and Marketing — Sales materials provided by the manufacturers can help you explain the benefits of working with you and spell out your competitive advantage to consumers and businesses to whom you sell your services. They can clarify your unique selling proposition that differentiates you from your competition.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

About the author

Diana Vollmer

Methods for Management (MFM) Inc.

Managing Director

Diana Vollmer is managing director of Methods for Management (MFM) Inc., a consultancy specializing in drycleaning businesses. You may contact her at dvollmer@mfmi.com, 415-577-6544.

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