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40th Clean Show anniversary

Clean Show Image

By Ian P. Murphy

The Clean Show—or World Educational Congress of Laundering & Drycleaning, as it is formally known—returns to Las Vegas, Nevada, June 5–8, 2017, and it promises to be the biggest and best show in years. Now 40 years old, the show has seen solid growth in attendance, exhibitor numbers, and floorspace in its last two biennial appearances, and it looks to extend them this year.

"Everything has grown—floorspace, attendance, and hotel blocks have grown," said Mary Scalco, show chair and CEO of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, one of five associations sponsoring the show. “I can’t say the industry has made a complete comeback, but the operators who are still here are healthier. Traditional drycleaning pieces are never going to come back, so you have to branch out. The people who are still in the industry are expanding and branching out, and they want to learn new things.”


What Is the Clean Show?

Clean debuted in 1977 as the first nationwide event for all industries within the broader category of textile care, bringing together laundry, drycleaning, uniform rental, and other textile services under one roof. Featuring live equipment demonstrations and educational sessions on-site, it quickly became the place to network, learn and shop for equipment for fabricare professionals throughout the world.

“What Clean does is bring world-class education, exhibitors, and attendees to one location for networking and learning,” said Miracle Holt, spokesperson for Atlanta-based Riddle & Associates, which has staged every show since Clean ’93. “The Clean Show showcases the latest, most up-to-date advances in the drycleaning and laundry industries. It attracts all facets of the laundering, drycleaning, and textile-care industry—from single-owner, coin-operated laundry and drycleaning establishments to giant industrial and institutional laundries and textile service companies.”

The exhibition attracts business owners, plant operators, drycleaning and laundry technicians, store managers, distributors, consultants, and buyers, she said, and the vast majority (94 percent) are owners, executives, or managers. Only the Clean Show brings these executives face-to-face with the exhibitors that offer the equipment and supplies they need to stay on the cutting edge of fabricare.

“They will see live demonstrations of equipment on the show floor, and network with exhibitors and other attendees,” Holt said. “Plant operators benefit from seeing working equipment in one location to make decisions on purchases and future investments. They can compare equipment, ask questions, and negotiate—all on the trade show floor.”

“Customers often call us on the telephone to ask where they can see our equipment in operation,” said Stuart Ilkowitz, president of Trevil America Inc., a prominent maker of tensioning finishing equipment. “One simple answer is the Clean Show. We will have live demonstrations of our full line, so everyone who attends the show will have a chance to see the equipment in operation, ask questions, try the machines themselves, and take advantage of special pricing that is only available on the show floor.”

Comparing notes with fellow operators presents an additional opportunity to learn. “The importance of the show for the drycleaner looking to create an edge in the marketplace is second to none,” said Karen Maxwell, customer service director for Kansas City-based GreenEarth Cleaning. “Rubbing elbows with other [operators] offers information and insights that allow you to make more informed decisions for your business.”


Witnessing New Growth

Clean continues to be the largest textile care exposition in the world today, and is one of the largest shows of any kind to feature operational equipment. But although the industry has consolidated, the show’s booth space has seen steady growth recently, reaching levels it hasn’t achieved for more than a decade.

“With two months to go, Clean 2017 already has more than 220,000 sq. ft. of exhibitor booth space assigned to the floor plan,” Holt said. “This represents a significant jump from the 195,400 sq. ft. at Clean 2015 in Atlanta, and 195,140 sq. ft. at Clean 2013 in New Orleans.”

The number of exhibitors is growing, too. Clean 2013 attracted 422, while Clean 2015 had 437. By the end of February, 408 companies had reserved exhibit space for Clean 2017. “This is a true milestone for the Clean Show,” Scalco said. “Clean 2017 exhibit sales already are ahead of each of the last four shows, and registration also is up for the same time period at previous shows.”

Many new exhibitors are tech firms that hope to help drycleaners and other businesses operate more efficiently and profitably. “There are a lot of new products out there,” said Jon Meijer, DLI’s director of membership and marketing. “There are a lot of companies and people wanting to get into the industry. A lot of things are now app-related—the tech part of the industry is a big thing.”

While it may take a time to break the 13,000-attendee mark last seen at the turn of the century, Scalco said, the show isn’t far off. Attendance at Clean 2015 in Atlanta jumped 9 percent from Clean 2013 in New Orleans to reach 11,264, and there’s reason to believe that the 2017 show may attract even more drycleaners and launderers, since Las Vegas is a favorite destination for showgoers.

“Sales have been tremendous,” Scalco said. “They always are when we go to Las Vegas. The attendance goes up, and booth sales go up. People love to go to Vegas.”


Face-to-Face With Fabricare

Sponsors see Clean as the one reliable chance to meet with members. Most of the show’s early sponsor organizations still collaborate on the show today, and Clean 2017 has five: DLI, plus the Association for Linen Management (ALM), the Coin Laundry Association (CLA), the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA), and the Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSAA).

“For us, it’s about thanking our members for being members, and saying hello to people we only get to see every other year,” Meijer said. “We get to show off new innovations and have educational sessions, but it’s mostly about shaking hands: ‘Hi, how are you? How is business? How are the family and kids?’”

That face time is important to exhibitors, too. Exhibitors get the opportunity to spend some quality time with customers and potential customers in a setting that allows them to display their offerings in more detail than a telephone conversation or plant visit,” Maxwell said.

“The Clean Show is by far our best opportunity to reconnect with existing policyholders, and our best opportunity to meet potential new policyholders,” said Bob Aiken, president of NIE Insurance, which specializes in covering textile care companies. “No other event brings so many fabricare businesses together in one place at the same time.

“Because we serve all 48 continental states from our offices in St. Louis, our contact is usually limited to phone and mail,” Aiken said. “But the Clean Show allows us to be more than a voice on the telephone, and more than words on a page. It allows us to meet our customers face-to-face. It allows our customers to look us in the eye and experience our commitment to service in person. It allows NIE to distinguish itself from competitors that don’t attend the Clean Show.”

Similarly, the operators who choose to attend are actively involved in their businesses and motivated to improve them. “Our experience over the years has been that the more successful operators in the drycleaning business are those who come to the Clean Show to seek out new ideas, new techniques, and better equipment,” Ilkowitz said.

“They understand that the Clean Show is an opportunity to speak with industry experts who can provide knowledge about how to improve their business and make it more profitable. Our focus is to show how our machines can help them improve their business in numerous ways, including increased quality, productivity, and labor cost savings.”


Planning A Visit

With more than 400 exhibitors, 30 hours of educational sessions, and the glitz of Las Vegas vying for attention, planning can help maximize one’s Clean Show experience, Riddle said. Prioritize your goals, whether it’s education, networking, buying a new machine, or all of the above, and create an action plan for show days. Take notes, ask questions, and collect business cards.

Always leave extra time for discovery, though—a new exhibitor or unexpected session could offer exactly the product or information you need to succeed. “People come to a show for a purpose: They need a washer or a drycleaning machine,” Meijer said. “A lot of that equipment on the show floor goes straight to a drycleaner or coin laundry, and sales have been good for the past few years. But there’s always something new on the show floor.”

Make time for relaxation, too, whether that means a dip in the pool, a show, a good meal, or some slots. The show schedule sticks mostly to business hours, so attendees will have plenty of time to enjoy the nightlife. And even if you’re typically a crusader for the coat and tie, remember that both Las Vegas and the show floor are vast and often warm—dress with comfort in mind.

Above all, enjoy the opportunity to meet with association representatives, suppliers, and the many other colleagues in attendance. “The show is exciting—people come in from all over the country, Canada, and Australia; all of the students come back and say hi,” Meijer said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

Registration for members of any of the five sponsor associations is $119 per person; the nonmember fee is $149. After May 31, on-site registration is $169. For more information, visit www.cleanshow.com, call Riddle & Associates at 404-876-1988, or e-mail info@cleanshow.com.

Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. He served as the editor of American Drycleaner magazine from 1999-2011.

Posted By Harry Kimmel | 5/2/2017 9:21:05 AM