How Is Your Sweeping Business?

Got a call from a midwestern contract sweeper who asked if I'd heard of contractors losing sweeping accounts to national service providers. Not recently, I said, though there was a stretch a couple years ago when NSPs seemed to be making a push and having an impact in the pavement maintenance industry, specifically in the sweeping segment. Well, maybe the economy has changed all that, I was told. This contractor, who prefers to remain unidentified, reported a loss of more than 30% of parking lot sweeping contracts -- especially local contracts with locations of national chains -- to NSPs over the last two years. Street sweeping frequency has declined as well, but the contractor is really feeling the impact of the loss of private sweeping. I asked if the company was getting an opportunity to bid the private contracts and was told yes. "But we are bidding them at the rates we need to make that client profitable for us. We are not cutting our prices to get the work because that's a short-term solution that would only cause us problems down the road." When they lose a bid the contractor has gone back to the clients, most of whom it has serviced for years, to ask why they didn't get the work. Cost is one of the big factors as NSPs low-bid to get the contracts, but it's not the main reason. "We were told it's for corporate ease. Many of these accounts are now managed nationally and they said it's just easier to work with an organization such as an NSP rather than have to work with individual contractors in each location." Not much a local or even regional contract sweeper can do about that. But all news is not bad. "We're hearing from the local managers that they are dissatisfied with the service they're getting and we're told that they are expressing that dissatisfaction to the people making the buying decisions. We think we'll get that work back, eventually. But when we get it back we intend to get it back at the prices we need." Good for them. That's one contractor in one region of the country. Any other similar -- or different -- reports out there?