Force of nature

12 April 2022

Clean Supply has proved itself to be a force to be reckoned with, writes Kathy Bowry, and the future is looking good

Clean Supply does what it says on the tin. It provides laundries and dry/ wetcleaners in the UK with chemicals, solvents, pressing and finishing accessories, equipment, packaging and presentation goods, sundries and ‘retail and pound makers’.

Clean Supply has proven itself to be a company that will not lie down tamely even when disaster strikes. It proved that when its premises were destroyed by fire in May 2019. After a devastating two days, 100 firefighters finally got the blaze under control at the Garman Road warehouse in Tottenham, North London. The company took the setback on the chin, managed to cover all its supply commitments, didn’t miss a delivery and managed to turn misfortune into a positive – a move to more suitable new premises in Hertford. And then of course, there was Covid.

As Clean Supply managing director Raik Ahmet says: "It wasn't just the fire and Covid that disrupted business. Another curve ball was Brexit. After the fire it was: Should we extend stock? How much to hold? It was pure guess work. Luckily Kreussler was holding some on site. With hangers coming from China at the same time as we going to rebuild? Should we just pack it in? Insurance was another worry? Would they play ball? We decided we could re-establish but then realised we had outgrown Tottenham. There were a lot of factors in play and we knew we had to let go some staff. Then there was the financial side. As word got out about the fire customers were wondering if they had to pay us (Yes!) and suppliers were chasing us for money.

According to Ahmet: “Post-Covid, the customer base is the same – but smaller. There is a scaled down market in London and other central areas and hospitality has suffered. However, with events picking up, we are hopeful. During Covid, we saw business shift sideways – around 80% during the 8-10 months of full-on pandemic. Sales are back but like everyone else during that time we had to reassess, realign, cut back. We are now seeing medium sized OPL picking up – a bit of a turn-around from pre-Covid.”

Recently, the company secured a national agreement with Miele as its UK distribution partner, specialising in its WetCare package.

“It could not have come at a better time,” says Ahmet, “as wetcleaning is fast becoming the system of choice for many drycleaners who are looking at replacing old machines or newcomers to the industry who want an eco-friendly sustainable solution rather than traditional drycleaning with solvents.”

The upshot of the Miele tie-up is that Clean Supply can now supply a complete wetcleaning solution with Miele washing machines and dryers, pump systems for auto dosing plus finishing equipment and Kreussler chemicals which it has marketed in the UK for many years.

John Carmody, commercial director for Clean Supply adds: “This is a very exciting development for us, and for the sector, we now have the ability to enhance our offer, with a complete package from start to finish, for any existing or new wetcleaner and laundry.”

New premises

In 2021, happily ensconced in the new Hertford HQ with its state of the art warehousing facilities and offices, Ahmet recruited Alan McCarthy as UK operations manager with his wealth of experience in the laundry chemical business sector. He heads chemical sales, applications, installations and project management, new business development and team management including recruitment, training and development.

Changes have happened not just on the ground but are reaching into the ether, too. The recently launched Clean Supply app makes it easier for customers to order on the go. “Eventually,” says an enthusiastic Ahmet, who points out the rate at which technology is marching on, “customers will be able to order so much more easily. Not far down the road they will, for example, be on a Sunday outing with the family and will be able to top up their order in the car by simply talking to their phone and activating the app enabling the order to be ready for picking and dispatch on the Monday without them having to wait for office hours.”

That is not to say there will be any lessening in the personal service Clean Supply prides itself on. “When we moved from Tottenham to Aylesbury for a short while, it was a bit too far for our customer service team to travel to as they were London-based so we had to find a site closer and also more suitable to our core London- based customers and staff fairly quickly. Idyllic, Hertford was the perfect location, with its easy links to the M25 via the A10 and most other major routes.”

Ahmet is proud of the company’s embrace of sustainability. Stocking The Green Garmento range of 4-in-1 reusable bags, suit carriers and locker bags is is just one aspect of Clean Supply’s commitment to reducing plastic waste. The same goes for drycleaning solvents as the world starts to turn its back on traditional solvents like Perc. However, he sees wetcleaning as the way forward saying: “You can do so much more than just clean fabrics, for example, Uggs, leather....

“With 175 businesses dependent on us to supply them it was so important we had things in place quickly. If a wetcleaner ran out of detergent/agent it is critical for them. Kreussler might have had to scramble to find another distributor. Luckily that did not happen.

“We did well coming out of the fire and it prepped us for getting tough and to roll with the punches – there was no time to consider decisions. When Covid hit, we just said ‘Here we go again’ and got on with it,” says Ahmet.

ON CALL: Clean Cut’s MD Raik Ahmet

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