ICS Magazine

Increase Your Business: Look Into Leather Care

April 9, 2008

More often than not, when I talk to a carpet cleaner or fabric-upholstery cleaner about the benefits of adding leather cleaning to their service offerings, I receive negative responses that usually fall under two headings:
  • The cleaner has not tried leather cleaning (“I don’t know how” or “I don’t have the time”) or
  • They have tried it and their experience was so bad they stopped offering the service (“I tried it in the past and the products I used caused color to come out of the leather.”)
If you don’t know how to properly clean leather, take an IICRC Leather Cleaning Technician course. This is the best way to become a credible expert in this field. The courses are just two days and are well worth the cost for the amount of knowledge and confidence they provide.

Products caused damage? Today, there is wider range of products available than there has ever been. These products are specifically formulated for leather and will not damage it as long as you use what you have learned in an LCT course. The days of leather cleaning products made with solvents are over. Proper instruction and quality products yield incredible results. Research and try some of the many new products on the market.

Not enough time? Then it’s time to expand your business. Leather cleaning requires the lowest investment (no trucks or truckmounts), no special equipment (you need sponges, cloths, pails, etc.), and basic training (LCT course). I can’t think of a better way to increase revenue without increasing overhead.

Let’s look at some facts:
  • Type P – Protected/Pigmented Leathers make up more than 85 percent of the leather in consumers homes and are the easiest to clean.
  • Type A – Aniline Leathers comprise 10 percent or less of the leather in consumers’ homes and are more time consuming and difficult to clean.
  • Type N – Nubuck Leathers comprise less than 5 percent of the leather in consumers homes and are the most difficult to clean.
  • Leather comprises 28 percent of upholstery sold to U.S. consumers (source: Survey of furniture retailers conducted by Furniture Today – 2005)
  • Leather cleaning commands a price tag 10 percent to 25 percent higher than traditional fabric upholstery cleaning.
With this in mind, I feel carpet and upholstery cleaners have three choices:
  1. Investigate the major players in your market and you will find carpet cleaners who have added upholstery cleaning, duct cleaning, mold remediation, floor refinishing, etc. Expanding your services expands your clientele. This is the only way to maintain customers, maintain and increase your margins, and maintain your competitive position.
  2. Clean leather, but not Type A or Type N. This is a much better choice than not cleaning leather at all, though I still have reservations. Limiting your offering for leather to Type P is very similar to a carpet cleaner not cleaning Oriental rugs. Consumers are more than willing to pay a premium for the more expensive and exotic materials. Type A and N leathers fall into this category. These leathers can be effectively cleaned without concern of damaging them. Cleaning takes a little more time, but it is time your customer is paying for. Moreover, I find that most companies that start out cleaning Type P will quickly add Type A and N. Why? Consumers demand it.
  3. Clean all leathers. Take the LCT. Perfect choice. With a little experience, cleaning Type A and Type N leathers are not as difficult as one might think. Learn proper technique, educate your customer, and set proper expectations will soon make leather a significant segment of your business. Expand your company’s opportunities. Consumers are starving for the service. In today’s service-oriented world, the consumer does not want to clean the carpet, clean their windows or maintain their leather (by far one of the largest investment items in the home). Why? They don’t know how, they don’t have the time or the proper products and, most importantly, they value their investment.
In more than 10 years of teaching leather cleaning and repair, I have seen individuals and companies who start out with little interest in cleaning or repairing leather become obsessive about it. Leather is addictive. It starts with cleaning; leather repair, mixing color and restorative cleaning soon follow. From there, many move to complete refinishing, investing in spray booths and arranging tours at tanneries. This is a remarkable transformation that begins with leather cleaning.

Take the time to learn about this exciting service. Expand your profit centers. Become the leather “expert” in your town or city. Consumers want and need the service, so take leather cleaning by the horns (sorry, couldn’t help it) and increase your business.