This past weekend I decided I would surprise my wife and attack the monumental task of cleaning my garage, something I have been avoiding for several months now. About 45 minutes into this much-delayed task, I realized I had a dilemma on my hands — I needed to replace a specific piece of hardware that was used to hang a certain piece of equipment onto my garage wall. So, like any other proud fixer upper, off to Home Depot I went in search of my replacement part…because, as we all know, they have everything. To my dismay, however, the part needed was considered a specialty item and was not stocked at my store. Luckily, the sales clerk was able to refer me to a small local hardware store that did carry the item I needed.
While speaking to the hardware store owner, I expressed my surprise that his little hardware store carried something that the big-box store did not. He went on to explain to me that his success was because he was a niche store, not a hardware store. By this, he meant that he offered items the big-box stores did not. He is considered the problem solver to the niche market.
When I got into my car, I thought about what just happened and how it relates to the laundry industry. The big-box store could not supply my demand and needs, but a much smaller niche type store could. As today’s healthcare market changes and evolves, successful laundry operators will learn to adapt and be willing to provide the value-added services and products that the Big Boy laundries will not. Those who choose to offer niche items and services, so often seen by many of the big boys as old hat and obsolete, are suddenly starting to see an upswing in business.
The market climate has become very competitive and continues to heat up on a daily basis. Everyone is looking for an edge to set them apart from the rest of the field. Gaining this edge could be as simple as offering a specific garment that once was readily available but now is hard to find – perhaps a “retro” item like a simple candy striper vest for volunteer services. Your edge could come in the form of a program with faster than usual turn time. Maybe in your business the edge takes the form of a replenishment system considered old hat to some, but still vital to others.
As the mergers in the acute market continue to take place, and the non-acute market continues to grow, we need to change the way we go about doing our business. Sure, we all have the ability to offer the same products as the next guy, and similar services, too, but the really successful operators who stand out and lead the pack will be the ones who offer solutions and services for that niche market or need.
As I continue to visit laundries on a weekly basis, I am starting to realize that the advantages once gained by securing business from the big-box store or big-boy laundry may have lost some of their appeal due to the little guy’s desire and willingness to handle niche-market requests. I for one, who once thought the big-box store had it all and could solve all my problems, am now a believer in the little guy, the one who is willing to handle the niche markets and needs. The little guy, by meeting needs in this manner, has now earned my loyalty. I’ll be going back there with more of my business, rather than to the big-box store. Are you willing to service the niche market and capitalize on this business opportunity?
Scott Delin, Vice President of Sales
Fashion Seal Healthcare®, a signature brand of Superior Uniform Group®
Contact Scott at (610) 442-0880 or