Industry Leaders Forum: Garth Michalson, Managing Director, Cleanstar

How was 2020 for Cleanstar? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

Let us just say that it was the most interesting year as I am sure could be said for many businesses.

It would be hard to say that 2020 was a year of significant highlights. I think surviving the economic headwinds was the main goal, and then capitalising on opportunities that presented themselves.

The biggest challenge was dealing with all the uncertainty that prevailed in the economic and thus trading arena. It is extremely hard to make decisions in your business that can have a profound effect in an environment that was so uncertain and unpredictable.

How did Cleanstar adjust to the impact of the pandemic?

We ‘hustled’. Thinking creatively outside of the square was essential. Moving into different product areas that catered for the pandemic which were outside of our normal scope of business was necessary.

How would you rate the industry’s response to COVID-19?

Generally speaking, I would say that the industry responded quite well. We even saw companies from other industries enter into the cleaning industry for the first time out of necessity when their traditional industries slowed down.

What will be the immediate focus for the Cleanstar in 2021?

While still having a mind to the pandemic business environment, we will continue to carry on as we normally do, which is continuing to remain proactive, seeking out new products, developing new products, and maintaining our relevance to our customers as best we can.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for Cleanstar in 2021?

While the cleaning industry has shown it is an essential industry and can survive (and in some cases, thrive!), regardless of what is happening around it, the legacy of the pandemic still has to play out.

Again, the recurring theme of uncertainty still remains to some extent, so trying to predict what 2021 will hold would be a bold call. These challenges will remain. I think when government assistance such as JobKeeper comes to an end in March, more uncertainty will prevail.

Victoria of course has been hardest hit, so what businesses can recover and what businesses can hang in and not collapse remains to be seen.

The effect of the pandemic on overseas manufacturers and their global distribution framework no doubt will also have pressures to bear. We have yet to see how this will play out.

As for opportunities, they are always around. While there has been much devastation, this too will bring with it opportunity.

What role will innovation play for Cleanstar in 2021?

Innovation has been for some time a key to success. New technologies and new ideas which advance at such a rapid pace bring with them efficiencies and higher productivity at a lower cost.

The cleaning industry has already seen a major influx of innovation over the past few years, and this will only continue at an increasing pace.

Cleanstar is aiming to launch a suite of new and innovative products in 2021 in line with our quest to keep moving, stay relevant, and be proactive in this space.

Looking at the future – both short and long term – what do you see, as far as changes and adjustments, the industry must embrace?

Avoid cheap product and not focus on pricing only. As a wholesaler we focus on working with quality manufacturers from around the world to offer the best product into the Australian market. We have such a diverse range of product and work hard to maintain a great level of product.

Is there a message you would like to share with the industry?

We need to continue to innovate and offer product to keep hygiene at its ultimate level.

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