Over the Years, Spector Textile Products Has Shifted Its Focus – And Grown Its Operation

A century ago, Lawrence, Mass., was a world center for textile manufacturing – featuring a great stone dam that fed an extensive system of canals to provide hydropower to the city’s many weaving looms at the time.

Spector Textile Products was established in Lawrence in 1937 by Louis Spector, who called upon the city’s various cotton, wool and other textile mills to obtain mill ends and cuts that would otherwise be thrown away. As a textile recycler, Spector would sort, grade and resell the mill ends to the growing number of manufacturing and industrial accounts that used these remnants as wiping rags and buffing cloths.

By 1960, textile manufacturing in Lawrence and other mill cities in the region had all but dried up, moving south and then later overseas. During this transition period, Louis’ son, Howard, joined the company and transformed the wiping cloth business into a full-scale “cut and sew” manufacturing facility. And it was Howard’s expansion into textile manufacturing that provided opportunities for the company to serve the laundry and drycleaning industries with laundry and drycleaning nets, as well as custom-printed bags.

In 2008, Spector Textile Products moved into a 40,000-square-foot facility, which expanded the company’s production space and increased manufacturing capabilities with more than 200 types of textile machinery in use.

And, in 2014, Spector Textile became one of the first textile manufacturing and production facilities to operate on 100 percent solar-generated energy from a rooftop-installed “solar farm.”

Today, adding to its extensive array of textile machinery, Spector recently installed a 10kW radio frequency welder, which is equipped to handle textile materials up to 60 inches wide. The deployment of radio frequency welding – a method of fusing laminated textile fabrics – enables Spector to produce a variety of waterproof and airtight finished products that are welded together, not sewn. Currently, this technology is being utilized to help solve the challenges of many large-format laundry operations, especially with regard to the transport of contaminated fluids.

In addition, at this year’s Clean Show – to be held June 20-23 in New Orleans – Spector Textile will feature an extensive line of profit-building products, including laundry bags and tote bags for laundry owners who provide wash-dry-fold services.

“We will be encouraging owners to take advantage of the opportunity to upsell the laundry chore experience for customer convenience with durable laundry bags and totes in unique shapes, sizes and fashion-forward patterns that carry the store brand,” Howard Spector explained.

Mr. Spector also shared his thoughts on the future of the vended laundry business:

What is the most pronounced trend you’re currently seeing in the industry?

One of the most pronounced trends we see in the marketplace is the increased attention owners are paying to store branding to build customer loyalty. With few exceptions, laundry owners are seeking to “earn” brand loyalty among existing customers, while also trying to attract new customers. A scan of any city or town in America will reveal a wide variety of places to do laundry. In attended stores, owners are choosing custom-printed bags and totes to promote brand identification – as well as custom-printed and logoed smocks, aprons or vests for staff members, making it easier for customers to find an attendant if they require assistance. In unattended laundries, operators are offering expanded lines of vended products, including laundry bags, tote bags and mesh wash nets.

What are you most excited about as we head toward the midpoint of 2019?

As a manufacturer based in the United States, we are encouraged by the strong U.S. economy and the increasing demand for “Made in America” products. It should come as no surprise that – with changes in trade agreements, the imposition of tariffs on many consumer items and other geopolitical shifts – suppliers are seeking to identify regionally based supply chain sourcing solutions. This is further evidenced by the increased cost of transportation incurred with procurement of offshore products. In addition to be a leading textile manufacturer, Spector Textile Products is a “solutions company” that provides customized product to meet challenging industry demands.

What are you most concerned about, from a business standpoint?

In a robust, full-employment economy, the ability of small companies to attract and retain skilled staff members, along with the shrinking number of job candidates with “people skills,” are business challenges. Individuals who are trained and excel at providing customer service will be the most sought-after candidates to fill open positions. Coupled with the challenges of workforce development is the ever-constant change in fashion trends and apparel that reduce or eliminate the need to either wash for dryclean textiles. As technology in development of “smart textiles” expands, soil-resistant and liquid-repellent fabrics may very well give new meaning to “easy care.”

Where do you see the vended laundry industry headed?

I see explosive growth. We are in the midst of one of the most dramatic population shifts ever witnessed in our economy. The Baby Boom population is entering midlife and beyond, just as the pre- and post-Millennial generations come of age. Younger customers prefer the ease of card- or smartphone-based payment systems over cash-based transactions in vended machines. As a result, we’re beginning to see expanded product offerings in vending machines, which enable store owners to provide diverse vended products like laundry bags, mesh bags and tote bags – resulting in increased sales over laundromats that vend only chemicals like detergents and fabric softeners.

What’s the biggest reason for laundromat owners to be optimistic?

The current economic landscape provides one of the best opportunities for owners to acquire needed capital to remodel or build new laundromats. This is especially true in traditionally underserved areas, where new and modern stores lag due to socioeconomic factors. The continued need for laundromats, coupled with a strong industry presence, provides the necessary tools for today’s entrepreneurs to succeed. And I would suggest owners take advantage the professional expertise in planning and execution offered by the Coin Laundry Association.

What are the keys to successful laundry ownership today?

With more than 8o years in business, Spector Textile Products has found that the key to success in almost any business venture is the need to adapt and change with shifting markets. In our case, we moved to a cut-and-sew operation from a collect-and-repurpose business, which has opened many more doors for us than if we had not so readily adapted to a manufacturing model.

With respect to our partners in the laundromat business, we encourage operators to conduct a business scan on an annual or semi-annual basis. Start with an honest evaluation of the current level of business – then, set realistic goals and clear objectives to increase revenue, maximize efficiency, and manage the continually rising costs of utilities and labor. Next, actively participate in your industry’s trade group, as well as industry-specific events. Thirdly, owners should actively engage in community involvement through volunteerism, charitable work and the development of family-friendly stores. Offering child-friendly spaces for play and learning activities is a great way to make the chore of doing laundry a community resource experience.

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