In a challenging time for the international drycleaning industry most business owners can benefit from the experience of those who have taken a lateral view of the problems, and through thinking “outside the box” have successfully developed their business in new directions.

The speakers at the convention of International Drycleaners Congress (IDC) had done just that and their experience proved invaluable.

First, Gary Dawson, president of the International Fabricare Institute defined those challenges:

•saturation of the market

•wide differences in pricing

•fashion changes

•education of drycleaners and

•complacency in the industry.

Nora Nealis of the National Cleaners. Association, discussed ways that trade associations could help members. Associations must, she said, deliver the message about the value of professional cleaning to consumers. To do so , they must understand what marks out the good cleaner from the bad.

Darcy Moen of the Customer Loyalty Network used his experience as a drycleaner to help others. He explained how creative thinking can help to retain and win back valuable customers.

Diversification into other areas is one way to develop. Sally Lorensen Conant, who runs the largest gown preservation service in New England as well as co-ordinating the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, explained the opportunities and the pitfalls of going into this specialist area.

‘Mack’ MacGregor of Browns Cleaners and Tailors in Ottawa spoke about undertaking flood and fire restoration work, an apt subject given the flood problems being suffered worldwide.

Hiroyasu Higuchi of the Tokyo Wholesale Company offered an insight into the cleaning of leather bags and sofas as well as shoe cleaning, deodorisation and sterilisation.

A group of experienced drycleaners discussed marketing. It included Jim Parham and Nicole Just of Acme Drycleaners, Florida, Jack Barth of Barth’s Cleaning Centre, Orangeville and David Hillary of Hillary’s in Ottawa and Sid Tuchman of Tuchman Training Systems in California. Topics covered were customer relationships, rewarding customers using database marketing, and how to increase the a company’s value. Reports on the state of the fabricare industry from Europe, the Americas, the Orient and Australasia rounded off the conference programme .

The event ended with a grand banquet and awards ceremony.

Bill Fisher, ceo of the International Fabricare Institute has just completed his 40th year at IFI. He was named International Drycleaner of the Year 2005, for a lifetime of meritorious service to the international fabricare industry.

The other presentations included: President’s awards – for outstanding support to IDC and the Canadian drycleaning industry: Tom White of T White Enterprises; and for outstanding support to the north American drycleaning industry : Nora Nealis of the National Cleaners Association.

Makota Igarashi Award for outstanding service to the international garment restoration service: Sally Lorensen Conant, Association of Wedding Gown Specialists.

The George M Shepherd Award for support to IDC in strengthening international understanding and goodwill: Japan Cleaning Productivity Council (JCPC).

SHARING IDEAS: Convention chairman John Jordon , second from left, with speakers Gary Dawson, Darcy Moen and Nora Nealis

Bill Fisher
Right, HONOURED: Bill Fisher and Sally Lorensen Conant with their awards

Marcia and audience
LISTEN AND LEARN; The audience at the convention – Marcia Todd editor Fabricare Canada, front