First-Responder Garments – Emerging Growth Opportunity?

Posted April 24, 2020 at 1:10 pm

One trend that’s emerging amid the COVID-19 crisis is a renewed emphasis on cleanliness and the need for the uniforms of first responders to undergo professional processing in order to minimize the risk of exposing colleagues, family members or the public at large to the virus.

Textile Services Weekly recently learned of a small but noteworthy example of this phenomenon from Randy Clemens, co-owner/general manager of Clemens Uniform Rental, Lansdale, PA, north of Philadelphia. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in mid-March, local police contacted Clemens regarding concerns about processing officers’ uniforms in cases where they’d come into direct contact with residents, either during arrests or health-related calls. “The chief of police called me and asked what I would suggest,” Clemens said. “I told him how we handle the garments and he asked if we could do theirs.”

Clemens agreed to take on the small number of uniforms that police felt needed professional processing on a “customer-owned goods” basis. “They bag the soiled clothes and bring them to the soiled side of our building,” he said. “We wash and press them and they pick up here.”

While the compensation for this work is nominal, Clemens is happy to aid local law-enforcement personnel and lower the risk of people having exposure to COVID-19 or other microorganisms. “The few dollars we collect are not important,” he said. “We want to help and the police are thankful. It is always good to have excellent working relationships with local officials.” Clemens added that he doesn’t see this recent move as signaling a major growth opportunity. “In our area, the police take care of their own uniforms.”

However, Clemens added that looking ahead, he sees the processing of uniforms for police and other first responders as ripe for expansion, especially in the wake of the current pandemic. “In the long run, I think that every front-line police EMT (emergency medical technician) and medical employee will be required to change before their shift and change after their shift is over,” he said. “They will not take garments home. For years I have been saying that I can’t believe that hospital workers and doctor’s office employees can go home in the same uniforms they wear all day.”