Are there too many drycleaning and laundry plants? Can there be too many? What difference does it make? All thoughts of where we are going in this industry weigh heavily on everyone’s mind. Naysayers will proclaim doom and the overly optimistic ones whose attitude of forward thinking – who never allow for dismay, or reality, will declare things as better all the time, despite the problems we face. What are the problems we face? Not enough customers or pieces. With rare exception, I have yet to have a drycleaning and laundry establishment owner or manager tell me that things are back to the way they once were before. As a matter of fact, things have been better or worse many times before. As the wise King Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
One of the problems that we have faced over the years is a constant newcomer to the industry coming in with unobtainable goals. This is not a difficult industry. But it is a specialty industry that depends on the good graces of people with extra money, to choose to spend it on us or not. We are not a necessary commodity. Mostly, we are a luxury industry. If anyone thinks that the dress habits of people will ever go back to what they were in decades past when a suit on a man or a dress on a woman were common, are only kidding themselves. People are lazy and want to have many choices. One of those choices is to be comfortable. As long as employers find no problem with that, our industry will suffer.
“Does This Sound Like A Good Drycleaning Customer?”
Society today calls for the “do what you want” attitude brought on in the 1960s. A steady decline of values has continued since then. I rather doubt that anyone will go back to wearing nice clothes again in the workplace or anywhere else. I cringe when I see teachers at my grandson’s school wearing what we once called peddle pushers (now called Capri pants) and open toed shoes and in some cases old britches and a tee shirt and flip flops. Did you ever see a teacher dressed like that on Leave it to Beaver? Certainly not when I was in grade school either. Folks are wearing pajamas to an airport and wearing shorts to church. Does that sound like a good drycleaning customer to you?
I mean not to sound overly pessimistic folks because believe me, I wish that we were all as busy as a hibernating bear, but such is not the case in most plants, especially when you look back at sales six years ago. Naturally, history repeats itself and sales will go up and down over decades as it has in my lifetime. But I can guarantee you that sales will never be what they were forty years ago when people actually wanted to dress nice.
No sir, everyone has a choice to be frumpy if they choose. Sort of makes you wonder what happened to self worth when dressing. Most people don’t know (or don’t care) that they are judged by their appearance.
Goals of magnificent sales at lower prices, over flooding the market with one price cleaning and other such attempts at changing our industry have long been tried. I well remember such a group of drycleaners (actually, I think they forgot about drycleaning as an industry and only wanted to be big shot multiple plant owners) that flooded the market back in the 1960’s with promises of, “in-and-out fast cleaning for a cheap price.” One particular group bought up many good plants that were once the pride of the industry and reduced them to nothing by combining philosophies of false growth.
Phrases such as “the industry is ripe for consolidation,” “McDonald-ize this industry,” “teach these old fuddy-duddys how to sell, sell, sell,” regardless of making a quality product. “Combining organizations for better profits,” “emphasizing shifting from entrepreneurial style to corporate thinking” are but a few slogans that now reside in the cemetery of new drycleaning ideas.
“We Are A Specialty Industry”
These groups are as recent as ten years ago and as far back as the 1960s. It seems every ten years or so someone comes up with some master plan to revolutionize this industry. Most fail and fade into oblivion. So is attrition good? I think so if you want fewer operators maximizing greater profits and sticking to the old regime of fair pricing and more than fair quality. It seems to me that should work for just about any industry. But, the interesting thing about this industry, is that it has been proven over and over that it is quality that people are looking for, not shim sham ideas on different operational philosophies. Again, we are a specialty industry that no one has to have to survive, so it seems to me that experimentation on customers is a lost and dangerous cause.
I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!