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Making The Case for Reusable Bags

Rick Siegel |

At the opening-night party of the recent Southwestern Drycleaners Association (SDA) Cleaners Showcase (I go to the swankiest soirées), an official said he was going to give me one opportunity — and only one — to explain why he should use a reusable garment bag.
But when I ran into him on the exhibition floor the next morning, I told him I couldn’t sleep — not because Dallas barbeque doesn’t agree with me, but because I believed he had the question backwards. “You have one opportunity,” I said, “after our conversation last night, to explain why anyone would ever use single-use poly instead of reusable garment bags.”
The official paused, then said, “Good question. I have no idea why.”
“My point exactly,” I said. “Imagine a world in which drycleaners had never protected their clients’ clothes and were introduced to the two processes simultaneously.
“First, they could continually buy thousands of very thin, clear, plastic bags and twist-ties to hold the orders together, and a similar amount of garment covers. Oh, and the drycleaner should provide their best customers with another bag to put all of their dirty clothes in — maybe calling it a delivery bag, or express bag, or VIP bag, if they prefer.
“Or, alternatively, the drycleaner could start using ecofriendly reusable bags. These bags would go back and forth from home to plant, serving as customers’ hamper bags at home, as their duffel bags for the dirty clothes’ trip to the drycleaner, and morphing into a hanging garment bag to protect the clean clothes for the ride back home.
“As the bags keep the orders together and protected, there’s no need for twist-ties, shoulder covers or single-use poly, and now every customer has route bags, making them all VIPs. Plus, since the bags are water-resistant and breathable, they protect the clothes better, as well as any children or animals be exposed to the bags.
“The costs are different, but not in the way you might expect. Keeping a full supply of the needed poly bags, twist-ties, shoulder covers and express bags costs a drycleaner with about 1,000 customers somewhere between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. Buying three personalized reusable bags for 1,000 customers cost $15,000 to $18,000 in Year 1, depending on which brand and size they buy.
“In Year 2 and beyond, the drycleaner will need to spend another $5,000 to $6,000 — about 30% of their original purchase — for new customers and replacement bags. So the single-use poly bag system will cost about $100,000 over three years to protect and ship customers’ clothes, versus less than $40,000 if they choose the reusable bag system.
“One last thing about costs,” I continued. “As there’s a perceived value to reusable drycleaning bags — they can even be used for weekend trips — drycleaners can, if they choose, ask their clients to pay for the bags, turning the protection of their clean clothes into a profit center.”
Full disclosure: My wife, Jennie, and I started The Green Garmento thinking it was important to try to lessen the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in our landfills and waterways. But after learning more about how drycleaning works, we realized that “greenness” was just part of the story.
Customers will no longer have closet floors filled with garment covers and poly. Nor will they get frustrated when they’re late and the shirt they want to wear is stuck to the most twist-tied twist-tie in the history of twist-ties. Or think that when they can’t find their slacks in the closet, it’s because they dropped them in the parking lot.
Yes, reusable bags are better for the environment. But more important, reusable bags — especially reusable bags with your company’s name on them — aid in your marketing and branding efforts. And most important, lessening your dependence on single-use poly, twist-ties, shoulder garment covers and VIP bags will save you money — and lots of it.
The advantages of the single-use poly bag? It’s cheaper to get started, and it’s easier to see what’s been cleaned or laundered. But do they compare to the benefits of this new category of bags? While I am admittedly invested in the answer, I don’t think so.
It’s like the way people’s main mode of transportation changed from horse and buggy to the automobile at the beginning of the 20th century. I believe we are now seeing a transition from transporting drycleaning from single-use to reusable bags. And with good reason.

About the author

Rick Siegel

The Green Garmento

Co-Creator of The Green Garmento

Rick Siegel and his wife, Jennie Nigrosh, are the creators and marketers of The Green Garmento reusable drycleaning bag. Before that, Siegel was one of Hollywood’s most influential personal managers, guiding the careers of Craig Ferguson, Ellen Degeneres, Seth Rogen and others. He is perhaps best known for producing the play My Big Fat Greek Wedding and developing its film version. He can be reached at 323-512-2600 or via e-mail at rick@thegreengarmento.com.

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