National Clothesline
Looking, listening and learning
Atlantic City, NJ, was the place to be on the first weekend of October for anyone in the industry looking for the latest in equipment, supplies and bright ideas for running a professional and successful fabric care business.
More than 1,000 people took advantage of the opportunity offered by the Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association at its biennial trade show where 73 companies filled the exhibit hall with their best stuff and a slate of speakers put forth provocative ideas to answer the challenges of a tough business environment. The Atlantic City Convention Center was the focal point, surrounded by the many entertainment choices of the city.
While fun and games
awaited attendees outside the convention center walls, inside was where the serious business took place. Attorney Frank Kollman got down to business in the opening session on Saturday morning with a discussion of the many pitfalls an employer must be aware of to avoid falling afoul of labor laws which have been receiving interpretations that heavily favor employees.
Kollman said the National Labor Relations Board is dominated by “radical left wing” appointees who are handing down rulings that could call into question many things that previously have been staples of employer policies and employee handbooks. For example, stipulations that employees be courteous at all time to each other and customers has been attacked as “chilling an employee’s right to speak freely.”
Likewise, asking an employee to keep something confidential could be considered a violation of the employee’s rights. And disciplining an employee for disparaging the company on social media such as Facebook could land an employer in hot water. (Kollman elaborates on the NLRB’s initiatives in his column this month)
Kollman was followed by Mary Scalco, CEO of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, and Nora Nealis, executive director of the National Cleaners Association, who drew upon their experiences as trade association leaders to talk about “What Cleaners Are Doing Now to Survive.” The two have been appearing together at industry gatherings for the past year to emphasize the unity and spirit of cooperation between the industry’s two national trade associations.
They both urged cleaners to look at their businesses with fresh eyes, starting outside with curb appeal of the store, then inside to the front counter and then back in the plant to eliminate waste and inefficiency. Doing things the way they have always been done is not going to work now in this time of “the new normal,” Scalco said.
Nealis said there are low-cost ways for a cleaner to improve marketing, which could start with some Windex and elbow grease to clean up the appearance of the store. She also suggested that cleaners look into the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Day Direct Mail program which offers a relatively inexpensive way to reach all of the potential customers in a specific geographic area.
Another association leader, Brian Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the Coin Laundry Association, led off the Sunday morning with his “Top Ten Secrets for Getting More Customers.”
“Everyone plans to do more sales,” he said. The question is how.”
He urged cleaners to take advantage of the marketing opportunities offered by the Internet, particularly social media.
“People are using on-line sources for their buying decisions,” he said. If you don’t have a website, you are nearly invisible to people who are actively looking for a drycleaner, he said.
Then there is Facebook. Why market on Facebook? Because your customers are there and your competitors are there, Wallace said, adding that it is easy to create and update a Facebook page for you business.
Another internet resource is email marketing. While some people are hesitant to give their email address, they can be convinced to do so if you use it to provide notification when garments are ready or to tell them about special offers.
All of these marketing methods are either low-cost or no-cost, he said, and will add to your business’s bottom line and overall value, he said.

John R. Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He publishes a monthly eNewsletter, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.” Contact him at johnrg31@me.com, (617) 774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.