Welcome, cleaning industry, to 2012…and may this be your best year ever! I will have drunk a toast to that on New Years, if my doctors allow. I write this month’s column, my first for 2012 and my 21st year for the Cleaner & Launderer magazine, from a hospital bed in a Veterans’ Hospital in Texas. The first three weeks of December were painful, and by the 10th of the month I had become ill due to an oxygen deprivation problem, got sick on a plane, and arrived at a hospital barely making it. The combination of several days without the extra oxygen I now require, and the additional strain of low oxygen level while flying ended up causing double pneumonia…and a resulting heart attack. Not to despair, I am recovering, and the ol’ cowboy will be back in the saddle in no time flat!
“Slow Down, Reflect And Plan”
Reflecting back on 2011 has been the way I have spent my recovery time in the hospital for 13 days. I will have additional time in January at a rehabilitation hospital to reflect. So just how horrible was 2011 to us? Though I saw up to 10% + rise in drycleaning and laundry business across the nation in various high market areas, most cleaners had experienced by year’s end a disappointing flat line in sales. Some reported a slight increase. The economic news pundits would have us believe that “all is well” and the road to recovery has already begun. I have a difficult time wrapping my thinking around so positive a note of optimism. Wish it were so, and hope I am wrong.
“Our Industry Will Change The Way Of Doing Business”
The Allied Trades people are the best barometer for the flow of business in your stores. Their sales are down. You’re not buying as many supplies, products or solvents. Now is the best time to establish yourself as the best operator – by virtue of operating at a standard that would in the past be only described as “average standard.” Forget high standard, it dropped some time ago. That may explain why the high dollar, high quality, plants are the only ones improving. Less packaging, less labor (a dangerous practice in and of itself), not maintaining proper solvent levels or clarity, dropping filtration standards, etc. These things play havoc on a marginal operator. With no funds dedicated to survival, they slowly, but surely, drop off the map. Attrition in its brutal way forces a balance into our industry and those that survived.
“Election Year Will Also
Have An Impact”
The optimistic folks among us might hang their Texas Ranger Gus McCrae (Lonesome Dove) hat on the hope that a new president might improve our economic position or perhaps even our current president. Frankly, I don’t see any overnight overhaul of the economy by any president. Payroll tax cuts and penalties to small businesses will continue as our country continues its move towards socialism. The great days may be behind us. We will simply have to regroup as an industry and come at sales with a better plan. We may morph into a totally different service! Make no mistake, now is the time to belong to your state/national drycleaners association. Marketing tips come weekly along with dozens of other benefits. Save your business, join now!
“We Always Were, We Always Will, Be A Luxury Budget Item”
We continue to be a “luxury” item industry. We all know our customers are budgeting their usage of cleaning. It makes sense, unfortunately. Again, you’d better come up with a better sales game. Marketing is very important today. Also maintaining quality and service, which is more important now than ever before. My best to discounters, now that sales volume alone may not sustain them, sense there…aren’t any sales? However, “endeavor to survive” as Lincoln once said. My very best to everyone who has called or written to me during this rough spot in my life.
I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!
Kenney Slatten is a third generation drycleaner and laundryman from Houston, Texas. Since 1987, he has operated Kenney Slatten Training Co. He is a certified instructor for DLI and can help you with your training needs. He is also Executive Director of Western States Drycleaners Association, a member of DLI; SDA in Texas; CCA in California and The International Drycleaners Congress. Kenney is Allied Trades Board Director for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute in Laurel Maryland. He can be reached by phone at (800) 429-3990; e-mail: KSlatten@ aol.com or visit: www.kstraining.com.