The Challenges of the Clean Show

An Exclusive

CHICAGO  — As many of you know, I had the privilege of sitting on the Clean Executive Committee (CEC) during the planning and execution of four Clean Shows, and strongly believe in the importance of Clean to our industry.
Preparing for a Clean Show requires due diligence and long-range show planning, usually four to five years before the show becomes a reality. In many instances, initial planning is done 10 years out, because making conference and hotel space available isn’t always possible in just a couple of years.
One thing of which I can assure the industry is that members of the CEC take the responsibility seriously, and they realize that they work for all of us.
One major factor in the selection process has always been the availability of exhibit space and steam — only a few halls exist that can meet these requirements. Years ago, both laundry equipment manufacturers and drycleaners required live, high-pressure steam, and the last few Clean Shows seemed to provide this to drycleaners. It should be obvious to those who know anything about the drycleaning business that steam is a critical element for demonstrating pressing equipment. Today, I see little, if any, crossover in our industry, but years ago, some did exist.
As hard economic times impact everyone, it’s obvious that they’re also hitting our industry pretty hard. While everyone has his or her opinion, the majority of exhibitors have responded that the show in New Orleans was “OK,” or “nothing spectacular,” and the last day of the show was a virtual “bust.” I’m sure that, as usual, the quality of attendees on the show floor was good, but I must admit that the CEC needs to re-examine the issue of show frequency and the importance of a consolidated industry show.
Taking on the issues of show frequency and the consolidation of show elements by sponsor-specific categories is a real challenge. I’m sure that the drycleaning industry could easily have its own show every two years, as well as the coin-operated laundry industry, but does that mean that the committee has to turn away from the “all-for-one, one-for-all philosophy”? Times have changed, and that may be the justification for change, but the big questions are how and when. Decisions must be expeditious.
These are not easy decisions for the CEC to make. I would challenge each key member of the industry to voice his or her opinion to the appropriate sponsor organization. Then it’s the responsibility of those organizations to render the decisions of each sponsor and cast a vote accordingly.
As one who has attended and learned from every Clean Show since 1973, I can attest that Riddle & Associates, the show’s management firm, has done a tremendous job with the resources available. However, Clean could easily be improved through the development of a marketing program that reaches a greater scope, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Clean needs to develop a better, more comprehensive website. To meet these requirements, Clean could easily employ the wisdom of its sponsor organization members who are years ahead in website management and marketing management.
There is one vital point about the show that must be mentioned: Where else can you get the quality educational sessions made available at this event? I don’t know of such an avenue, so this, in some respects, adds to the challenge of deciding whether or not to hold the show every two years.
Based on my years of observation, this is how I saw Clean 2009:

  • Most Improved Booths from Previous Shows: Gurtler Chemical and Med-I-Pant (MIP)
  • Innovative Marketing Acknowledgement: Urine-Off (attire and literature boxes on wheels)
  • High-Tech Innovation Using the Web: Chicago Dryer Co. (posting videos of Clean Show booth activities)
  • Potential Hot New Product: Standard Textile’s Electrochemically Activated Water System for laundries
  • Stepping Outside of the Box: G.A. Braun Inc. (innovative use of plasma big-screen TVs)
  • Most-Talked-About Hospitality Event: Encompass LLC and MIP (based on a survey, not my opinion)

This year, I’m going to give myself an award called the Biggest Shock of the Show Award. It could be based on one of two instances: wearing camouflage scrubs (a new prototype for Department of Defense markets) or wearing an ascot in 100-degree weather. Care to pick one?


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