Next month’s National Drycleaning Fortnight is being

promoted by various groups, including the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers, which is making posters available,

offering advice on its website and so on. The aim is to increase the number of customers using high street drycleaners as well as the volume of articles they leave to be cleaned. Here’s hoping it works. Perhaps some drycleaners will use the two-week period to implement some ideas for driving custom picked up at the IDC conference in London at the end of this month.

Stimulating fresh ideas is vital in the current difficult economic climate, especially when there is increasing competition from the domestic washing market. However, drycleaners’ customers (and potential customers) are being encouraged by domestic appliance manufacturers to do more and more washing at home. Our

thinking needs to be every bit as innovative as theirs. Two

examples point to what we may see in the near future.

Whirlpool is currently converting growing numbers of American consumers away from the traditional top-loading washing machine to its new high-capacity front loader. Americans like to wash large loads and have shied away from the Europeans’ preferred front-loader, despite its superior efficiency. However, with its 87-litre capacity, the front-loading Whirlpool Duet washing machine offers Americans 10% more space for their soiled clothes.

Very interesting, you say, but what’s it got to do with UK drycleaners? Well, the Duet was launched in France, Belgium and Luxembourg last month under the name Dreamspace, and the company plans to extend product coverage to other countries soon. (Whirlpool intends to launch in Asia next year too.) The machine is not cheap, at around a1,500, but gives purchasers a damned good reason not to go to the drycleaners.

Meanwhile, the Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer Sanyo has produced a domestic washing machine that it claims can clean clothes with electrolysed water instead of detergent. When it launched the machine, called the ASW-ZR, in Japan about a year ago, it sparked a furious row between the detergent manufacturers and Sanyo over how well the machine actually cleans.

Strictly speaking, the ASW-ZR can be used without detergent only for loads up to 4kg, which is half the machine’s capacity. But that didn’t stop the Japan Soap and Detergent Association running tests and revealing that the machine not only struggled to cope with heavy stains, but caused fading of some colours and some fabrics to stretch. Sanyo remains convinced by its product though, and you can be sure development continues.

The National Drycleaning Fortnight will only work if drycleaners try something different. What’s the alternative?

   Glenn Tomkins (