National Clothesline
Vital signs are good in New Orleans
The 2013 edition of the Clean Show looked like a revival for an industry that has been in the doldrums the past few years with some 10,000 attendees making the most of an experimental three-day format in the show’s fifth visit to New Orleans.
Final attendance figures are yet to come, but by the end of the first day, Clean Show Manager John Riddle was pleased to announce that registration had edged above 10,000, putting the show ahead of the total from the last New Orleans visit in 2009 and near the number that turned out in Las Vegas two years ago.
The 420 exhibitors who filled the Morial Convention Center also topped the previous New Orleans number and was just short of the 2011 Las Vegas total. Riddle said the show was eight percent over budget on exhibit space, which should make the five cosponsoring trade associations happy.
How exhibitors feel about the shortened three-day format is yet to be determined and will be a factor in whether the next show, scheduled for Atlanta in April, 2015, will stay at three days or return to the four-day arrangement that the show had followed since the early 1980s.
Exhibitors will be surveyed by the Clean Show Executive Committee and their views will be weighed in making the final determination, said David Cotter, chairman of the committee and CEO of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association whose membership is made up of many of the companies that exhibit at the show. Based on exhibitor comments on the scene, that survey is likely to yield mixed results and the decision won’t be an easy one.
For attendees, the three-day format seemed to work just fine. People were lined up shoulder to shoulder in the entry area, ready to enter the exhibit hall when the ribbon was cut and the opening bell sounded at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 20. They flowed throughout the hall during the day, getting an up-close look at everything that’s needed to run a cleaning business and talking to many of the industry’s top experts who were on hand in the various booths.
Even before the hall opened, they were on hand to hear seminars put on by the show’s cosponsoring trade associations. The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute opened its programs on Thursday morning with its Meritorious Service Award presentation.
Although there are several award categories, this year just one award was presented. Kreussler was honored for its development and introduction of the Solvon K4 cleaning system which was first introduced to drycleaners in the U.S. at the last Clean Show and since then has been adopted by some 200 cleaners in this country and 450 worldwide. Richard Fitzpatrick, vice president of Kreussler Inc., received the award from incoming DLI President David Machesney.
Following the presentation, DLI CEO Mary Scalco spoke briefly about the institute’s services, particularly the growth of DLI’s online offerings, which are expanding to include the certification process. She also announced the DLI and the National Cleaners Association are teaming up to offer a Five Star/Brainstorming conference for the third time. The conference will return to Cancun next January.
The first DLI seminar of the show presented Darnell Holloway, manager of local business outreach for Yelp.com, who explained how Yelp works and offered advice on making the most of its services and, in particular, dealing with negative reviews from consumers.
DLI devoted its entire Friday morning program to a panel discussion on solvents. Representatives of six companies that provide cleaning solvents to the industry answered a series of prepared questions, then took questions from the audience during the two-hour program.
While similar panel discussions have been a popular feature at industry trade shows in the past few years, this one differed in that it included perc, the solvent that the others purport to be an alternative to, was represented. The other five included GreenEarth, hydrocarbon, Solvon K4, Rynex and GenX. While the others have grown in use in the industry over the last 20 years, perc remains the solvent of choice for the majority of cleaners in the U.S.
Perhaps a future panel will include the one new cleaning technology that was displayed at Clean ’13. At the 2009 Clean Show in New Orleans, Xeros introduced its low-water cleaning system that uses polymer beads in the drum for cleaning then removes the beads from the clothes once the cleaning is complete. In 2009, the system was still in concept phase. This year the company was back and boasting of three installations of working machines in the U.S. Although intended primarily for commercial laundry, one of the three is a retail drycleaner, Crest Cleaners in Clifton, VA.
The polymer beads’ molecular structure combines with a proprietary detergent solution to remved dirt from soiled items. Xeros said its system uses at least 70 percent less water, 50 percent less energy and approximately 50 percent less detergent, while delivering superior cleaning results compared to conventional washing.
DLI wrapped up its seminars with two programs on Saturday morning.
Tom Ustanik opened the morning with a talk titled “Goin’ Green.” Ustanik, the owner of Lansing Cleaners in Lansing, IL, explained how he has used “green technology” to save money, particularly on energy costs, while at the same time gaining  a “halo” that has earned him recognition and awards from state environmental organization and enhanced his appeal to consumers who want to patronize “green” businesses.
Energy costs are as low as they are ever going to be, Ustanik said, so taking steps now to conserve and reduce consumption will have an increasingly faster payback as those costs rise in the future. Plus, you get to wear the “halo” of being environmentally conscientious.
Following Ustanik was Eldridge Cannon of Cannon’s Coastal Cleaners in Brunswick, GA, who discussed the importance of investing in the business with new technology that helps work smarter, more efficiently and turns out a better product for customers. Cannon grew up in the business but left it for a career in aviation which he pursued for about 20 years before returning to drycleaning, taking over a small, struggling business and turning it into a growing profitable one.
He was a pioneer with the relatively new heated hydrocarbon cleaning technology, a topic of interest throughout the show. His early experiences with it showed that it cleaned better than his perc machines while producing garments that are easier to press and with fewer claims.
It wasn’t all business for DLI. A Thursday night reception, jointly sponsored with TCATA and supported by contributions from numerous industry companies, gave several hundred attendees a chance to renew old acquaintances, make new ones and enjoy free food and drinks before proceeding on to their evening activities.