Any time we can talk with our customers about federally mandated products, we should jump at the chance. OSHA’s 1910.132 provides very specific verbiage about the need for employers to provide personal protective equipment at no charge for their employees. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes eye protection, ear protection, head and face protection, specialized clothing and, of course, hand protection in the form of disposable and reusable gloves.
While it is true that the market for disposable gloves is primarily driven by the healthcare industry, it is important to know that almost all of your customers use gloves. The manufacturing, automotive, machine shop, food service, food processing, warehouse, and other industries all use disposable and/or reusable gloves.
Gloves are a great example of how our industry offers a distinct competitive advantage over traditional distribution. Gloves are available for purchase from several distribution sources. Broad-line food service providers and traditional jan san distributors are the most common. So how can an independent operator in the textile rental space possibly compete? Glad you asked!
Take advantage of your weekly end-user relationship, and deliver one case or even one box at a time. Broad-line providers have much higher minimum delivery requirements, often $250-500. Your route sales reps enjoy a great relationship with each of their customers. With a bit of product knowledge, and a few simple questions, they can determine the opportunity, and suggest product for sampling or comparing.
Finding the Right Customers
Even though almost all of your customers buy gloves, not all of you customers are prospects for you to sell. Hospitals and large manufacturing for example use so many gloves they need a large weekly supply and can easily meet the minimum for delivery from the broad-line distributors. They can negotiate price based on large annual volumes. Large volumes equal narrow profit margins in the glove industry. Your target customer is the business that needs 20 cases or less per week or even a few boxes in different sizes per week. Providing that service is high margin business for you.
Choosing SKU’s for gloves is often a daunting task, but in our channel, almost all the gloves sold are Nitrile or Vinyl. Start with a very tight product offering, and let your customers dictate the need for additional SKU’s. The industry is trending away from Latex because latex can cause skin allergies.
Start a glove sampling program on your routes which will allow customers and prospects the opportunity to compare your offer and try before they buy. “I noticed you use gloves here at ABC Manufacturing. Did you know we offer gloves for weekly delivery? I can deliver a case or a box each week along with the rest of your items. Which type gloves do you use, I would like to provide a sample for you to try?”
Direct marketing to your customers with the route sales reps is the most effective method, but other forms of marketing can help drive the program. Invoice messaging is great way to get the word out. “Ask your route sales rep about disposable gloves”, for example, may prompt a conversation. Stapling a glove flyer with your product offering to your weekly invoice may also increase your selling chances. Another effective way to generate dialogue is by having your staff include gloves in their phone greeting for a period of time. “Thanks for calling XYZ Services, where we now offer disposable gloves, this is Brenda, how can I help you?”
It is important to partner with a vendor that fully understands your industry, and provides sampling, training, and marketing support. If you do, then you will find that a glove and PPE program is a great way to profitably increase your stop value and importance to your customer.
Textile Rental Partners.