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Laundry Industry Laments Lower Turnout at New York’s IHMRS

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While attendance at this year’s International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show was reportedly down, exhibitors familiar with the laundry industry say damage from Hurricane Sandy could drive increased demand for replacement equipment and more well into 2013. (Photo: Richard Merli)

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Pellerin Milnor Corp. and Chicago Dryer Co. displayed new equipment in a shared booth. (Photo: Richard Merli)

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Cintas Corp. teamed with fashion designer Jay Godfrey to present a new line of stylish, distinctive and durable suiting for hotel staff. (Photo: Richard Merli)

Richard Merli |

But Hurricane Sandy damage could drive up demand for replacement laundry equipment and more

NEW YORK — Manufacturers of laundry machinery, reusable textiles, and laundry chemicals encountered below-average attendance at the annual International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS) here Nov. 10-13, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which had battered the East Coast Oct. 29.

But the dark clouds carried within them a silver lining: Many exhibitors suggested the storm damage to laundries may drive demand for replacement machinery, textiles and chemicals well into 2013.

“Some laundries were able to function with generators, but other laundries were completely devastated,” says John Smith, regional sales manager for Speed Queen. “In the hospitality industry, it’s still too early to make an accurate assessment of the damages to laundries. But equipment replacement orders may lag into the spring. This storm could have an ongoing effect into the next year.”

He described floor traffic at the show as “slower than years past” and attributed the decline to the storm’s after-effects.

Total trade attendance at the show this year was unchanged from 2011 at 23,953. But the number of industry buyers totaled 15,082, down from 17,955 in 2011, according to Melissa Gray, a spokeswoman for the show’s management. “The hurricane definitely had an impact,” she adds.

However, among the hotel owners and operators who attended the show, there was strong interest in increasing efficiency in laundry operations to help hotels and motels become more profitable by reducing energy costs, according to Smith.
For example, hotels can increase energy efficiency by reducing gas usage, beginning in the wash process. Using a washer-extractor equipped with a 200 G-force extraction speed can ensure optimal water removal from linens, which leads to reduced drying times, according to Smith. In addition, using a tumble dryer equipped to prevent over-drying further decreases gas costs.

Hotel owners and operators demonstrated strong interest in laundry controls capable of providing management with reports on productivity, according to Bill Brooks, North American sales manager for UniMac. The first day of the show produced little floor traffic, according to Brooks. But then the company experienced rising interest from small, independent hotel owners and representatives of larger chains, who are increasingly cost-conscious.

“Owners and operators understand that if you can measure your consumption, you can improve your utility, chemical and labor costs,” says Brooks.

He predicted that Hurricane Sandy will have “a big impact” on equipment replacement orders from hotels in 2013, because many laundries on the East Coast were flooded with salt water. Many of those laundries were located on lower floors or in basements, he noted.

“When hotels re-open for business, one of the first things they need is clean laundry,” says Brooks. “They have to do laundry, whether they salvage their equipment or replace it.”

Pellerin Milnor Corp., which shared a booth with Chicago Dryer Co., enjoyed “quality traffic” and generated “strong leads” at the show, according to John Rasimas, regional sales manager for Milnor.

Milnor exhibited a washer-extractor and washer, both with 60-pound capacities, while Chicago® exhibited its new maximum-speed version of its Air Chicago Express high-production small-piece folder. The new folder featuring a continuously running high-speed conveyor is designed to provide faster throughput in a narrower footprint.

“The first day of the show, Sunday, was very slow, but Monday produced some quality leads for us,” says Steve Hietpas, national sales manager for Maytag Commercial Laundry. “There was good interest from owner-operators of smaller hotel facilities of 100 rooms or less, both from the East Coast and the Caribbean.”

Cuddledown, a manufacturer of institutional bedding, pillows and comforters, came to the show “expecting it to be dead – the worst ever – because of Hurricane Sandy,” according to Ryan Scott, a hospitality sales associate for the Portland, Maine, company. “But it turned out to be much better than expected. We were very pleased, because hospitality represents the fastest-growing segment of our business these days.”

Greg Eubanks, group vice president of Hospitality Sales and Marketing for Standard Textile, echoed that experience. “We expected the show to be really slow,” he says. “But it’s turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was much better than expected.”

Standard Textile exhibited its Todd-Avery Lenahan Collection of sheets, which are now in use in more than 40 J.W. Marriott hotel properties worldwide, according to Eubanks. The microfilament interior of the sheets provides durability, while the cotton surface provides comfort. The sheets are laundered with Tide products and delivered clean, fresh and ready-to-use out of the box.

Cintas Corp. teamed with fashion designer Jay Godfrey to present its Fashionable New Apparel Collection at the show, according to Dan Ambrosio, vice president of Global Lodging and Cruise for Cintas. The purpose of the partnership was to create a new line of stylish, distinctive and durable suiting for hotels.

Godfrey worked in collaboration with Cintas to create a distinctively contemporary black suiting collection for men and women. The collection consists of slim-fitting silhouettes with narrow lapels, high-notch collars, shell buttons wrapped in stainless steel and signature jacquard dot-lining with magenta piping.

W Hotels Worldwide debuted the new wardrobe in 28 North American properties and plans to expand it globally. Although the collection is now exclusive to W Hotels, it will become available to all hospitality organizations in early 2013, according to Ambrosio.

The Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA) exhibited to demonstrate how the services of TRSA members can reduce the carbon footprint and increase the profitability of hotel, motel and restaurant operations.

The association emphasized its new Clean Green certification, which provides third-party verification that the linens, napkins, tablecloths, garments and other reusable textiles obtained from TRSA-certified members are laundered in an environmentally friendly manner.

In meetings with textile services customers at the show, TRSA gathered market data to help drive future programming. For instance, attendees were asked for feedback on their experiences with contracting for linen services. Many smaller hotel and motel operators appeared to be unfamiliar with the outsourcing option, according to TRSA, and were directed to the association’s website to find a textile services provider.

Proctor & Gamble, the maker of Tide, had a busy second day at the show and enjoyed strong interest in its color-safe products, according to Greg Elmore, an account executive for the company.

Ecolab generated interest with its Aquanomic laundry products, designed for low-temperature washing to achieve energy savings of 30-40%, says Bob Makely, associate district manager.

The next edition of the IHMRS will convene again in New York in November 2013.

About the author

Richard Merli

Richard Merli, who resides in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a former editor of American Laundry News.

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