Days Of Future Passed

What About 1997?

This month let’s delve into the past to get an idea of what some of the changes have been since 1997. Portions of the article below were in my archives of past speeches I have made. They tend to show much, and how little, progress we have made as an industry.

What Will 1997 Bring Us?

Or perhaps, we should ask what have we brought to 1997? I get a feeling there is a little apathy going on in the fabricare industry. This is shown in so many ways, if one will just look around. At drycleaning conventions last year I was seeing about a 10 to 30% turnout of available drycleaners for the area. The thirty percent was a rare convention indeed. I have seen very important issues discussed at conventions that had a total of about 4% of those affected that were in attendance.

I was talking with a distributor friend of mine and he told me there was a meeting of suppliers, distributors and manufacturers and the main topic was which events were they going to participate in the future. It seemed to be the consensus of opinion that the Clean Show would be supported every other year then in the off year about four regional trade shows.

There has been a rumbling among the allied trades for sometime about the number of shows in which they participate and the small crowds that come to the shows. It takes a tremendous amount of money to ship equipment to the shows, rent booth space and pay the horrendous prices that are necessary to hook up steam, water and power, man the booths, pay travel, living and lodging expenses, prepare hand-out literature, and don’t forget the time they could be out selling one-on-one with their current customers. When there are but three hundred people registering for a regional trade show and very few sales of new and modern equipment that everyone needs to stay competitive, it is no wonder the suppliers to the trade are taking a second look at their sales expenses. Just like you should do.

It was also stated that the measure of a show’s success is not how many buyers attend, not how much equipment was sold but how much money was made for the association by selling booth space. I can’t fault making money, but this seems to be a short sighted approach for associations, buyers and fabricare plants to look at suppliers to this industry as the main means of support.

So What Does The Industry Of The Future Look Like?

In a word, fewer. There will be fewer suppliers to the trade that are anxious to get their name before the public in such an expensive way. There will ultimately be a decline in the number of trade shows. This could result in fewer pieces of much needed, modern and innovative equipment and supplies being sold.

With the reduction of trade shows there will be more money for the suppliers to spend on printed and direct mail advertising, thus less customer contact. We will be moving more and more to an “order by mail and take your chance industry.” It goes without saying that there will be fewer supply and machinery sales people. I have often said there is more to buying than price. You are experiencing the end of a dying breed when you see the reduction of competent, qualified and knowledgeable salespersons who would come to your plant and help you in numerous ways whether it be advice on supplies or equipment, proper operating procedures, spotting, bleaching and some were even excellent pressers and finishers.

This will open up the increased need of independent paid consultants to help guide you when you are making expensive decisions. There will only be a few of them that will be able and willing to travel to your place of business. There will be more of a need to pay for outside education that originally was gained from the knowledgeable supply person. They generally knew which detergents worked best with the least amount of trouble. They knew which drycleaning machines were the workhorses of the industry and the importers, distributors or salespeople that stood behind the machines they sold. They could help you out of a spotting or bleaching mess that would usually result in either a claim or a lost customer.

There will be a need for additional drycleaning schools that go to a certain area to bring the latest and the oldest procedures to you rather than traveling to some remote location to get a slow and laborious education in the basics and finer aspects of fabricare.

And Here We Are

There has been a huge trend towards consolidating supply companies and fewer reps to call on you and share the latest products and procedures with you. There are fewer individual state trade shows and virtually no independent consultant to come and help you out with training or troubleshooting. There are few plants that are using European style tensioning equipment to help reduce labor, utilities and to help keep the plant cooler. This equipment has been displayed at every Clean Show since 1991, but without the will to change with the times, and adapt to newer and better ways of doing things, it seems as if we are our own worst enemy.

If you are near the left coast please attend the California Convention and if you are closer to the right coast by all means attend the NCA-I show. I may see you there.