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Dropping Resistance


By Joseph Ricci

Employers’ scrutiny of personal protective equipment (PPE) options regarding flame-resistant (FR) garments can culminate in the decision to exclusively purchase rather than rent these. Launderers traditionally attempted to defuse the logic behind this choice. If that didn’t work, their salespeople would back off. Today, textile services companies are more likely to provide FR on a direct sale basis, recognizing that it’s less profitable than rental but still produces something of a margin.

It also starts a relationship with a prospect that may eventually result in converting the new account from direct sale of FR to rental while producing other high-margin revenue for the laundry company, such as service of floor mats, mops, towels or restroom paper products.

Some accounts aren’t rental friendly. If few staff require FR and they work remotely, the economics of rental aren’t as favorable to either the employer or the laundry. Rental works best when a large number of employees report to a central location where they can swap uniforms daily.

When a prospect objects strictly to paying a weekly fee for each wearer but the conditions for rental are right, laundry salespeople become more confident about their traditional FR service. This is especially the case when wearers are in rugged lines of work that require a change of FR clothing each workday. Rental looks like a better deal compared with pouring out cash for five uniforms per individual, which often exceeds $1,000.

Employers can ask wearers to share this cost, but that turns an employee benefit into an obligation. Plus individuals become responsible for maintaining their FR garments, which is more difficult than washing everyday clothes. This requires educating employees in home-washing techniques. If they don’t implement these, such as avoiding fabric softeners or bleach, they can harm fabric integrity, reducing the effectiveness of flame resistance and increasing burn risk.

Rental laundries point out that industrial washing machines get hotter, more effectively washing away heavy soils, like oil, from garments created with optimal chemistry for maintaining resistance. Similarly, if a garment needs a patch or lesser fix, laundries have on-site sewing operations with the special threads and tools needed for FR repairs.

The latter provides an example of how letting professionals take control of a business uniform program makes more sense. A fully-managed solution eliminates inventory management headaches, ensures the business complies with applicable standards, and protects the employees’ safety and appearance. All of this comes without the large upfront investment of a purchase program.

Other key benefits of rental to employers include:

  • Inspection to make sure all garments are

functional and properly cleaned

  • Easy size changes
  • Uniform upgrades and swaps when older

garments need to be retired

Employers who choose direct sale often don’t take into account that size changes, employee turnover, and regular wear and tear often results in the need to replace 25 percent or more of uniforms yearly.

Uniform rental companies can afford to absorb the bulk of the cost burden due to economies in merchandise purchasing and other efficiencies. Very little of this cost is passed on to the employer, making rental a more cost-effective solution than the direct-purchase model.

A third option, uniform leasing, places the burden of laundering on employees but preserves the other benefits of rental. Economics are favorable when employees work remotely and can’t pick up and drop off their garments in a cen
tral location each week.

Many organizations can benefit from purchase, rental and leasing. At first, only one of these may seem right for a given business location. Over time, as the operation expands in the same place or adds locations, some employees may become ideal candidates for rental. Launderers are poised to offer this flexibility, steadily assessing such change in a business through sales calls and service rep pickups and deliveries of other reusable textile products the operation requires.

Employers aren’t up for a runaround. They’re looking for the most cost-effective PPE possible and need to understand the pros and cons of various choices. A vendor who provides the range of options and explains the virtues of all is likely to be a more trusted supplier. With this in mind, launderers are maximizing their credibility with FR buyers by promoting rental, leasing and direct sale.


Joseph Ricci is President and CEO of TRSA, a global trade association serving the textile services industry. Since joining TRSA, Ricci has logged more than 150,000 miles visiting laundries worldwide.