CONCORD, N.C. — The Clean Show is behind us, and we should all be focused on refining our cleaning operations going forward.
Those of you who attended the show in Atlanta should be filled to overflowing with ideas and information. For those of you who chose to sit this one out (shame on you), this is the time to take advantage of that association membership and network with fellow members. If you do not take advantage of your membership, well, the information you finally receive will certainly be old enough that someone else has already acted on it.
The show floor inside the Georgia World Congress Center was filled with cleaners looking for an edge in the marketplace.
When new stores “bookend” your best location within a block, it will get your attention.
When the gross sales at a location decline by 27% compared to last year, it will get your attention.
When you stop seeing that $100-a-week customer, it will get your attention.
The stories go on and on. Have I got your attention?
Our industry is in transition. About 20 years ago, the combination of improved equipment and environmental pressure led to owners being able to achieve mediocrity with reduced knowledge and reduced effort. This attitude soon became the “new norm.” Gradually, the idea of supplemental stain removal fell into disfavor as being too time-consuming and risky.
But times are changing, as evidenced by the web-based stain removal app for iPhone or iPad for members of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI). Soon, stain removal advice will be as close as your tablet or cell phone. You will still have to apply the information using “touch and technique,” but with time and repetition, you will soon be back to a business model that gives weight to the quality of stain removal as well as production.
I have long held the opinion that knowledge is power, and that includes access to information resources. However, one must first know the character of the fabric—namely the fiber content and anticipated dye stability—before researching guidance in supplemental stain removal.
The greater the amount of knowledge already possessed, the greater the probability of success in the cleaning of the garment. Getting the most effective results requires asking and answering the most detailed questions possible. Secondly, the more you already know, the fewer questions you will have to research. The more you already know, the less time you will need to spend searching for procedures and protocols to use in supplemental stain removal.
If the floor of the Clean Show is any indication, consolidation of companies will result in a reduction in the number of chemical tools available to treat individual stains. This may result in one of your long-time, favorite chemical tools leaving the marketplace. If this happens, rest assured that there are other stain-removal agents that are just as good ready to take its place.
Talk to your distributor representative about the characteristics you are looking for in a particular chemical tool. Some cleaner/spotters prefer a mild formulation that may require more than one application to get the job done, slowly. Other cleaner/spotters prefer a chemical tool with “teeth” that is expected to be “one and done.”
This column is intended to make you and your employees more effective when doing supplemental stain removal. Much of that process is based on time, knowledge and effort. However, there is one important variable that is seldom addressed: attitude.
If you are committed to removing stains, “Sorry” tags will become a thing of the past. You will take the time to use an enzyme digester or a bleach bath. You will learn the characteristics of fibers, construction, dyes and garment trim. Your confidence in your ability to remove stains will increase dramatically. If you are committed to removing stains, your time and knowledge will come together and be reflected in your effort to remove the stains in your customers’ garments.
Taken together, these variables form your attitude about supplemental stain removal. At this point, stain removal becomes a part of, not an addition to, your garment care service.
Cleaning customers are moving away from the “me, too” operation. Their discretionary income is shrinking, reflected in the attitude that if money is to be spent on garment care, the customer is looking for quality, even if it means a slightly higher cost. When the customer finds out that the wine stain you left in a blouse will indeed come out, well, you lost a customer.
In this economic climate, customers must be pampered. Make your high-quality stain removal the standard for the market you service. Don’t allow your plant to become “low hanging fruit” for any competitor in your area. Make it hard on the competition by forcing them to meet your standard of quality and service, not just match your price.