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Chris Kingsford is the account manager at Richard Haworth. Housekeeping Today UK caught up with him to hear about his experience and his thoughts for the future of the industry.
… on his industry career
Kingsford is currently account manager at Richard Haworth. It’s his second time at the company, where he was there for 10 years previously. He joined the industry when Paul Woolfenden, the owner of Afonwen Services, was looking for a general manager to run his laundry in Bootle, Liverpool, and in February 1991 he started working for Hillside Services. Kingsford said: “Like so many who come new to the industry, I had no idea how bedding and towels came to be in hotel rooms, and when Paul showed me how easy it all was – ‘just collect some dirty linen, put it into this machine called a continuous batch washer, tumble it, iron it and send it back out’, I thought it couldn’t be that hard!”
He continues: “Nobody told me that this is a relentless industry, with so many challenges set by the hospitality sector, some reasonable, some less so! Hillside was a small laundry, but as we were a franchisee of Brooks Textile Rentals, we were able to expand very quickly, and grew from 80,000 pieces per week to around 200,000 pieces, which stretched us, but great camaraderie kept us focussed.”
“The stand out feature about our industry is that there are no bad people employed in it, and when people need help, there is usually someone there to give it. I count myself extremely lucky that every day with Richard Haworth I meet great people across the industry that I can call friends.”
… on industry developments
“The last few years have seen enormous changes in the industry, with significant consolidation across laundries; we now have American, Canadian and French owners of large laundries, as well as large UK owners, which would have been almost unthinkable five years ago. “I feel sure that this trend will continue for a while, and that we will see more small- to medium sized family businesses swallowed up by the large corporate groups who see our industry as strategically important to their growth plans. “Is this a bad thing? I don’t believe it is, because the larger corporations bring clear ideas and strategies to the industry, and will drive us forward to greater efficiencies, lower carbon emissions and more awareness of the environmental challenges faced by the world at large.
“I do also believe, however, that the industry needs the small independent laundries, who are perhaps better placed to manage the smaller, boutique-style hotels that spring up regularly and demand more of a personal service from their laundry.” Kingsford continues: “Equipment manufacturers are producing fantastic ranges that help with efficiencies and productivity, and this in turn focusses us as a textile supplier on how we can best service our customer base with products fit for purpose; it needn’t always be price driven when our aim as an industry is to give great comfort to the hotel guest.
“As textile providers and innovators, we have seen changes in bed sizes and depths, and in the way housekeepers set up beds; this has led to larger duvets and duvet covers to cater for the larger and deeper mattresses. We are now seeing superking size duvet covers moving to widths of more than three metres, which in turn impacts the ability of the laundry to process them if their ironers are perhaps only 3.5 metres wide.”
“The stand out feature about our industry is
that there are no bad people employed in
it, and when people need help, there is
usually someone there to give it…”
… on industry collaboration
“At Richard Haworth we are delighted to promote and support the UKHA; housekeeping is a tough job and under-valued for its importance. I often feel that hotels, laundries and textile suppliers could be more engaged with each other in terms of bedding to fit the beds and how a bed is presented to the sleeper; good communication all round gets the best results for all parties!”
“Where I believe our industry could be more collaborative is in connecting up the dots between suppliers; thus, equipment manufacturers could involve textile providers in discussions about installations, so that the laundry knows what products will best work with the new machinery. Many of us were caught out with the advent of gas ironers operating at over 200 degrees and the effect this had on standard blended bedding, which distorted significantly.
“Similarly, there could be more liaison between bed manufacturers and textile suppliers, so that the right size bedding is provided for the appropriate beds, and fits the mattress, delivering the best sleep experience. “I believe that this industry is a great place to work, with a variety of opportunities and challenges in equal measure. There will always be hotels and restaurants to offer great service to, with opportunities to innovate both what we deliver, and how we deliver it, and the work at Richard Haworth continues apace to find the next great product and fabric for our industry.”
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