The North American textile services association, TRSA, recently finished the first leg of its Reopening Tour 2021 through the south eastern United States to highlight the reopening of the economy and its impact on the linen, uniform and facility services industry. Travelling from the TRSA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, through Charlotte, North Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; and Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, Tennessee, over the course of 10 days, the Tour covered nearly 2,600 miles taking in seven states and 22 operator and supplier-partner facilities.
TRSA representatives on the Tour included Joseph Ricci, president and CEO; Tom Newell, vice president of operations; Kevin Schwalb, vice president of government relations; and intern Ryan Kiernan.
“It was great to be back in plants and meeting with members again,” Ricci said. “Business is coming back and we highlighted the reopening throughout the Tour. Every member was excited about the economy bouncing back but concerned about worker shortages and supply-chain issues not only for themselves but also for their customers, and the negative impact it may have on the recovery.”
The Tour included stops at large, national members and regional independent operators, as well as supplier partners, all essential services supporting critical infrastructure from healthcare to food processing, manufacturing, logistics and other services. Highlights of the Tour were distributed on social media including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, resulting in more than 15,200 impressions, as well as numerous comments, likes and other recognition across each platform.
The Tour also provided opportunities to see members’ products and services impacting the safety, hygiene, sustainability and comfort of guests, visitors and employees at national landmarks such as Talladega Superspeedway, Country Music Hall of Fame, Graceland (Elvis Presley’s home) and the Lorraine Motel (location of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination and Civil Rights Museum), as well as restaurants, hotels and other locations. Throughout the Tour, TRSA tried to capture products and services “in action,” from table linens and garments in restaurants to bed linens in hotels to hand-sanitizing dispensers. Member products and services, as well as delivery trucks and logos, were visible everywhere.
Over the course of the trip, it was evident that the industry is coming back stronger based on efforts to diversify markets and introduce new services, nearing pre-pandemic volumes. While healthcare remains steady at about 90% of pre-pandemic volumes including a surge in reusable personal protective equipment (PPE), other sectors such as restaurants, hotels and other hospitality were only starting to rebound, primarily with weekend tourism. As restrictions continue to ease and people increase elective surgeries, doctor visits, dining out and traveling, especially business travel, the linen, uniform and facility services industry will continue to recover.
While recovery was apparent, there was widespread concern about labor shortages, supply chain and logistics, particularly for products manufactured overseas, including steel. These labour shortages are impacting production requiring overtime and additional shifts to push products through the plant. They are also limiting reopening. For example, Nashville was sold out during TRSA’s visit to the city, with thousands of hotels rooms and restaurants packed but services were limited more by the inability to hire personnel than by Covid restrictions.
A linen provider to properties mentioned that hotels could run at capacity only because they don’t change linens during guests’ stays. Rooms were empty by Monday so they couldn’t all be turned until then, delaying shipping of soiled linen to their laundries until Wednesday. Competition, access to day care, fear and other factors are impacting labor shortages, but most Tour stop hosts pointed out that increased unemployment benefits are paying nearly $15 an hour for people to not work. They hope labour returns when the subsidies end in September.
Overall, the initial leg of the TRSA Reopening Tour 2021 was a huge success, full of positive interactions with members. “Every location visited was full of hard working and genuinely nice people that were happy to see us and proud to show us their facility,” Ricci said. TRSA is excited to continue the Reopening Tour 2021 with visits to the Midwest in June followed by the Northeast, West and Southwest later in the year.
These companies were visited (in order of tour stop) on the first leg of the Tour:
- HandCraft Services Inc., Richmond, VA
- Prudential Overall Supply, Colonial Heights, VA
- Halifax Linen Service Inc., Roanoke Rapids, NC
- Leonard Automatics Inc., Denver, NC
- Crown Health Care Laundry Services LLC, Spartanburg, SC
- Tingue, Peachtree City, GA
- M+A Matting, LaGrange, GA
- NuMat Systems LLC, Roanoke, AL
- M&B Hangers, Leeds, AL
- Landau Uniforms, Olive Branch, MS
- UniFirst Corp., Memphis, TN
- Alsco Inc., Memphis, TN
- VF Imagewear Inc., Nashville, TN
- Allegiant Linen Services, Madison, TN
- NOVO Health Services, Chattanooga, TN
- Linen King, Ooltewah, TN
- UniFirst Corp., Knoxville, TN
- Alsco Inc., Knoxville, TN
- Alsco Inc., Roanoke, VA