National Clothesline
National Clothesline
A new normal for the Clean Show
 Over the past few years, we have heard DLI CEO Mary Scalco speak of a “new normal” for the drycleaning industry, one that requires drycleaners to come to grips with the fact that things are not going to return to what they were in the “good old days” and to adapt to the new realities of the market. Likewise, a “new normal” seems to have developed for the biennial Clean Show. Gone are the days of 15,000 or more attendees and more than 500 exhibiting companies. It has now been more than 10 years since Clean Show attendance topped 15,000 and eight years since more than 500 exhibiting companies participated.
The new Clean Show normal seems to have settled in with attendance somewhere around 10,000 and about 400 exhibiting companies. Even though total exhibit space was up this year over two years ago, it was still under 200,000 square feet, which every Clean Show since at least the late 1980s and through 2007 had exceeded. We now have a Clean Show that is smaller by every measure — about two-thirds as many attendees, about 80 percent as many exhibitors and a smaller overall exhibit size than the “good old days.” How does the Clean Show adapt to this “new normal?”
Show organizers made one big change this year by reducing the length of the show — three days instead of four. Does a smaller show mean that what used to take four days to accomplish can now be done in three? Maybe, but the returns are still coming in as the Clean Show Executive Committee surveys exhibitors for their opinions on that. Those opinions are certain to be mixed and the committee will have a tough time deciding which way to go.
Would an extra day on the show floor have given exhibitors a better shot at meeting all their customers and potential buyers? That’s hard to say, but it seemed that Thursday was the show’s busiest day with a gradual slowing down starting on the afternoon of the second day. Attendees appeared to accomplish their goals for the show early on.
One the other hand, if the show had run throughout the weekend instead of closing on Saturday, would more people have attended? It seemed that most people came in on Thursday; few additional ones showed up on Friday or Saturday. Maybe more weekend-only visitors would have come if there had been Sunday hours.
It’s not hard to see that there is a new normal for the Clean Show. The hard part is deciding what changes to make to adapt to it.
A vision that has lasted a century
It takes vision to make it to the century mark. When a business reaches its 100th anniversary, it’s nothing short of an impressive and rare milestone. Anton’s Cleaners of Massachusetts recently celebrated that accomplishment which only a relatively small percentage of drycleaning companies have reached before. However, this time, the company being honored found a particularly clever way to use the occasion to give more back to the community.
When about 350 people gathered for a ceremony to honor the Antons and their business, the family used the opportunity to raise nearly $210,000 through individual ticket sales, sponsors and donations for the company’s charity organization, Caring Partners, Inc. It is through that non-profit that Anton’s makes headlines year after year for sponsoring a Coats for Kids drive that has helped keep area residents warm for the past 18 years, gathering approximately 60,000 annually in recent history. Caring Partners also raises money to help local girls afford to attend their high school proms in high style with the Belle of the Ball. The event, which just finished its 9th annual drive, helped 400 young women this year alone.
While the Antons may have enjoyed honoring their ancestors and being recognized for their ten decades of dedicated service, they were inventive enough to see the potential to raise an extra $200,000 to help even more people in those charities in the future. This is the kind of brilliant thinking that helps a family maintain a strong, long-running business and it’s a positive example of what the best in this industry can offer.
When Charles Antonopoulos started the company back in 1913 (then known as Highland Tailoring), he might not have envisioned just how far his son (Arthur, Sr.) and grandsons (Arthur, Jr. and Charles) could take it (it now includes 42 locations), but nobody can deny he saw an excellent opportunity and seized it. Clearly, the next two generations have followed in his footsteps well and they continue to find ways to embed themselves deeper into the hearts of their customers.
Kudos to the Antons for never becoming too complacent or content. Instead, they keep an eye on the road ahead and what it will take to continue to succeed without sacrificing paying attention to the details of today. That is something we hope to see from more drycleaners in the future who may reach similar milestones. Of course, simply reaching such a milestone should never be the goal; finding a way to keep strong for the next milestone after that is a much smarter plan.