Offering laundry products and services to facility customers can provide some attractive benefits for jan/san distributors. For one thing, the market for such offerings is fairly stable, says Eric Cadell, vice president for Dutch Hollow Supplies in Belleville, Illinois.

Most of the volume is coming from healthcare, but it has also been big in restaurants and education — at least that was the case before COVID-19 forced facility closures. Even so, Cadell says they're currently reaching out to these and other niche markets as they look for more opportunities.

Joe Waite, vice president of sales for Hill & Markes, Amsterdam, New York, agrees with Cadell's strategy. Although the virus may have temporarily shuttered many eateries, the heightened concern COVID-19 has aroused over sanitation and cross-contamination nevertheless makes restaurants a realistic target market.

According to Waite, in-house laundry programs in restaurants are on the rise as more eateries begin installing smaller laundry machines for cleaning aprons, tablecloths, napkins and so on. More schools and athletic facilities are doing the same, cleaning uniforms, pool and workout towels, and other items on-site. In-house laundry programs are on the upswing in healthcare settings, too, as these facilities are starting to realize that sending items out for servicing can be more costly than keeping this aspect of operations on-site.

In addition to market opportunities, offering laundry products and services can create a more comprehensive array of offerings and help ward off competition as well, Waite says.

"Laundry allows a distributor to balance out programs that can encompass an entire facility," he says. "For example, if a distributor is working within a healthcare facility and is already providing them with PPE, jan/san and warewashing products, it's better for that distributor to offer laundry rather than having it outsourced or a competitor servicing the laundry only. Selfishly, on the distribution side, it's never good to have a competitor sharing in the facility. We want to be that single source."

Single-sourcing also makes it easier on customers, as this simplifies their operations and gives them better control over inventory, fewer deliveries to contend with, greater servicing efficiencies and subsequently less downtime.

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Creating On-Site Laundry Programs