It’s been awhile since I can remember such chaos in the business world. I don’t wish to make this an article of gloom and doom. As a matter of fact, I am most optimistic that our industry may just become more relevant to our customers. There is nothing like a little adjustment to life is there? Somehow, I want to believe that we may have overgrown the past decade anyway. The last blast of business sluggishness was in 2008 as we hovered near the slow dollar, we managed to wiggle past that particular drag on the economy. I was convinced then, that we were overbuilding in our industry. Maybe it was too much optimism after that dollar disaster in the economy.
We Will Survive This Latest Slump
I have always worried that our industry was too crowded, the long-lost days of the polyester scare of the late 1960’s through the 1970’s hit us right in the belly. We flat out had a change in consumer wear, and it wasn’t a positive future for us. The slow decline of dry cleaning and the rise in laundry confused us. Folks did not want to pay dry cleaning prices and started to become more interested in laundry prices, despite the fact that everything they wanted laundered was not meant to be laundered. Then we realized that the consumer wanted to wear casual clothes that could be thrown in the home washer and dryer. Never mind the horrible wrinkles left in the clothes. This was awful because no one was at home to iron the wrinkled clothes of home laundering, nor did the consumer have any idea how to treat clothes. Of course, this was all nil to the folks who never used our services to begin with. Fifty years later we are still here, and we survived all these setbacks. Today I believe we will survive the latest strike against our industry, we will survive this setback too.
Our Industry Needed Some Fine Tuning
Frankly, it all boils down to running tighter operations and paying greater attention to the details of professional industry standards. Never, ever, before has quality been more important. The late industry icon Ray Colucci of New Jersey once said in the 1970’s that quality was be-coming “a voice in the wilderness.” Ray was so right and despite some advice that the customer sets the quality and price, I don’t subscribe to that theory that is advanced by new people in the industry who drop their corporate jobs to own and run a dry cleaning and laundry business, just to show us how wrong we are about our business model all these decades. I sit back and watch most of these new, uneducated people in our industry trying to change it. The old rules still apply in quality and service. The way we ran our business model did indeed require some fine tuning to stay updated and relevant to the consumer.
Operate Thin And Smart
I look forward to watching our industry fine tune the way we run things. Expansion can wait. Bigger is not always better. Small cramped plants can work. I know of so many, many operators who were busting at the seams and could not wait to spend a million dollars to get a bigger place or expand the plant they still had. There were too many drop stores that were mostly marginal operations. Being confident and comfortable with your old cramped plant is not such a bad thing. I don’t have enough business skill to say when the decision for expansion is viable, but there are those experts who can tell you. Heck, DLI can tell you. Despite some people in our industry thinking they don’t need our industry associations, we really do need the expert advice of these fine trainers, educators and experts at DLI. Be a member and utilize their services. Being a tight nit industry, we all need to band together for a unified front. For those of us who have been around long enough to show our members the benefits of our local, state and national associations, we fought the battles with the government that choked us with regulations to operate. New owners and operators don’t always realize this and feel they are smart enough and independent enough to do without schools and associations. You could not be more wrong. There is not enough room in this publication to list all the fine people I know who have been partners in fighting every dry cleaners battles for them. These fine folks get little credit, especially from the new-bees.
Keep your chin up, tighten your operation and look forward to the future.
I’m headin’ for the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!