Before the temporary closure we prioritised manufacturing and dispatch for customers serving the NHS, and then shut down because it was the right thing to do.” A keen studier of the national psyche and its impact on our markets, he believes that the most ethical businesses, whether on the high street or operating as consumables suppliers behind the scenes, must be willing to stand up and be counted, locally, nationally and within their industry. “There’s a need for honesty about the dilemmas we face – people actually find that reassuring – but also, and very importantly, that we are willing to challenge the unethical. For instance, I’m angry at seeing claims that the addition of some essential oils somehow makes a product ‘anti-viral’. It’s irresponsible and dangerous and needs to be given short shrift.”
As things get back to a new ‘normal’ he’ll be looking to grow projects with the likes of FILL where they are supplying ‘cool’ hotels, businesses and B&Bs around the UK with a plastic-free bulk eco-responsible range. Then there’s work with Planet Minimal formed to help address the plastic pollution crisis and using electric vehicles to deliver environmentally friendly products to zero waste shops and the hospitality industry across London.
For drycleaners looking to not only demonstrate sustainability in their practices but to sustain and grow a customer base, Kalli believes drycleaners must seek out similar partners turning sustainability aspirations into reality, locally and nationally. He also points to how much a ‘treasure’ the internet had become in recent times and how many more people can now use the likes of Facetime, WhatsApp and Skype and are actually comfortable with it. “Expect customers who have recently spent a lot of time talking to relatives and friends this way to want to use this to talk to local businesses they trust, quite informally. Be part of that circle, sustain relationships. Be nice to each other!”
For John Carmody and the team at Clean Supply this has also been a period of adjustment. “We’ve been furloughed with just two staff left in the warehouse to pick and pack emergency deliveries,” he reveals. They, too, are therefore keenly aware of how the crisis will impact on drycleaners and other small businesses and expect sustainability to be a big factor in those which ‘bounce back’ or even find new customers.
For Clean Supply this is likely to follow on from being appointed sole distributor for the Green Garmento sustainable garment/laundry bags. The mission here is to replace as much plastic as possible with reusable bags that last for years. In tough times, the initial investment for drycleaners is minimal, compared to ongoing poly costs.
Clean Supply can help drycleaners create programmes to sell the bags to cover costs and create a customer loyalty initiatives so the reusable bags are seen as sustainability ‘badge of honour’. They are also keeping a keen eye on work going on at Kreussler in the US on both products and how drycleaners should create a sustainability plan if it’s not already in place. This includes educating yourself on the proper terminology, avoiding vague terms like ‘green’ and then sharing this knowledge with appreciative customers.
Being the friendly ‘teacher’ as well as the supplier also appeals to Graham Warren of Caraselle: “Only recently I read a BBC News article about new regulations to reduce the ‘throwaway’ culture of one-use products. Here at Caraselle we take this on board entirely. “Drycleaners have a huge opportunity to benefit from this by educating customers on how to be more sustainable and how they themselves are being sustainable in their business – Caraselle products play a big part in that. From our pet hair rollers, spray bottles, Peva range, loyalty bags and even our moth range, not only do our products help drycleaners wear the ‘sustainability badge’ but with repeat business they will also improve the bottom line just when they really need it.”
Warren believes in the ‘little, local helper’ approach which can be driven by ‘Buy Local’ initiatives which will become even more prevalent post-coronavirus as residents look to support businesses which helped see them through the crisis. And knowing the sustainability background and provenance of both counter sales items and consumables used behind the scenes will become all the more relevant. For instance, their recyclable pet hair rollers are made in Europe and built to last with a removable handle so that an easy-fit paper refill can be placed on the roller (bringing back customers for more!).
Caraselle’s spray bottles are manufactured in the UK and 100 per cent recyclable. Their loyalty scheme bags should do good service for two to three years even if going constantly between customers and the shop. These are the sort of things which could easily be built into ‘Buy Local’ or ‘Buy British’ campaigns and something to shout – ever so nicely and knowledgably – about.
At Hoesh International they are expecting more drycleaners to replace single-use polythene and with their cost-effective, reusable and branded suit bags, duvet bag and laundry bags. After all, those who’ve already made the switch are reaping the benefits. For example at Westward Dry Cleaners in Ballincollig, Cork, they opted for a range of branded products in a multi-colour print alongside an easy marketing campaign which began with the hashtag #byebyeplastic. Initially they gave them out free of charge to delighted regular customers and business clients and were soon contacted by the likes of hotels wanting them for guests and staff. While it’s still very much a marketing campaign, Westward also sell them as a re-usable cover, laundry bag or duvet bag. Local gyms and sports teams are using the laundry bags which are disinfected each time before repacking. Westward aim to eventually eliminate the use of single-use poly, but if a client specifically requests this they will treat it the same as a shopping bag levy and add a fee of perhaps €0.50 per cover, hoping to further educate and change the mindset. There’s no doubt that the rest of this year and probably beyond will be a learning curve for small cleaning businesses and drycleaners.
So, learn those lessons quickly, map out a route to a new way of operating if necessary – and prepare to be the welcomed teacher when it comes to sustainability.