Tiger is coming!

2022, the year of the tiger, is here. Corona pandemic which started in November 2019 is now entering its 4th year. We had high hopes when vaccines became available, but due to surprisingly deep-rooted anti-vax sentiment, additional 450,000 American lives were lost last year, bringing the death toll over 800,000. When it comes to deaths per capita, America is at a dismal 30th place out of 38 countries in OECD. And with the new omicron variant, new positive test results are at record level. Some says the worst is yet to come while others believe omicron marks the start of the end of pandemic. One thing is clear: people who have received booster shots have little to fear.

Our industry has been on a long decline. And with the pandemic, industry wide liquidation occurred and an estimated 30% of stores has gone out of business. To make matters worse, we are faced with an unprecedented supply shortage. As if that wasn’t enough, new hands are near impossible to find even at $20 an hour. With business going back to normal, many owner-operators are forced to work extra hours to handle the volume. They are beginning to realize the old way is not really working right now.

Finishing is the most labor intensive part of our production. So far, cheap labor was available to handle it but the days of cheap labor is clearly over. Finishing is also the most outdated part of our production. Presses haven’t changed much over the last, say 50 years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, they say. Well, it’s time to fix it.

Tensioning pants toppers and form finishers are absolutely necessary in a modern plant. With these equipment, one person can work two machines. They actually pay for themselves.

It’s time we accepted the modern wetcleaning, especially for old timers. Wetcleaning remove the pressure from the environmental and fire regulations, not to mention landlords. Nothing works 100%. We need to maximize what we have.

Industry wide liquidation means huge growth potential this year. If you still haven’t raised your prices yet, 20~50% raise is mandatory. Under current circumstances, it is impossible to maintain a business without a price increase. As they say, what does not kill you, makes you stronger. As long as we become flexible and responsive, the best is yet to come. This year should be the start of our operational innovation.

New Year brings out a superstitious part of our psyche. Call it curious. Or cautious. We can’t help listening to these predictions for the year. According to “experts” on the net, this year is the year of the tiger. A black one at that. It is known for bravery and wisdom. Even with its fierce notoriety, tigers are close at hearts.

According to I Ching, this year holds water as well as wood. As a result, the force fosters new growth.  Believe it? Or not? At least it feels good that it is good, isn’t it? That’s what matters.

Wishing you healthy and happy times!

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