The meeting between drycleaning industry representatives and Next’s textile supplier, hosted by TSA, was in some respects positive. (see P7)

However, the drycleaning industry still faces the problem of a back-coated curtain lining that may delaminate during cleaning, even though it is processed as specified. This requires a solution that takes account not just of future products but of those in stock and that have already been sold as these curtains could pose a risk in cleaning for several years. The solution needs to be one “that takes away doubt at the counter.”

The meeting gave both sides the chance to put their case face to face. The UK’s two largest drycleaners, Morrisons and Johnsons, sent representatives and both reported that they have sent alerts to their branches to refuse the curtains due to potential problems with the lining, which is used across the Next range.

The textile supplier, which was also holding separate meetings with Satra and DTC’s Richard Neale, explained that it carries out extensive product testing, which includes simulated ageing and that it also has products drycleaned. The supplier has also told

LCN that as a result of this series of meetings it has further lines

of investigation to pursue, including label amendment, cleaning procedure and technical improvement of the lining quality.

The situation is, as Murray Simpson pointed out a great opportunity for Next, as a textile retailer, its supplier and the drycleaning industry to show that they can work together to solve a problem. Currently there seems to be an important difference of opinion as to the size and extent of the problem.

For Next and its supplier the problem appears to be a relatively small one. Next has had “many products where the lining showed no sign of delamination and the return rate is only 0.02% of total sales.”

While no single curtain is guaranteed to suffer delamination of its lining during any single drycleaning, there is a risk that it will do so and importantly, the risk cannot be foreseen during inspection at the drycleaner’s reception. (Richard Neale has advised that each curtain with this lining would eventually fail in drycleaning, as the risk is linked to the degree of exposure to UV light).

If the curtain lining does fail, then the drycleaner’s problems are considerable. They include damage to the machine, the cost of putting that right and the cost of machine downtime with the resulting loss of business, compensation to the owner of the curtain and possibly to other customers with goods in the same load. There is also the risk of losing customers’ goodwill.

Another point that the supplier and also Next may not grasp is that the problem will remain as long this lining remains in use.

The supplier says that returns to Next are very low, but this is a problem that is more likely to trickle through than to be seen in high volumes at any one time. Many curtains will not be taken for cleaning but simply replaced. If they are cleaned it may be several years after they are purchased.

Next and its supplier are clearly trying to find solutions but if they are solely based on future options the problems will continue to trickle through for several years. Discontinuing the current lining would seem a good starting point for resolution.