Vacuum cleaner program keeps equipment in good repair

For such an easy-to-operate piece of equipment, vacuum cleaners can be a major headache. Constant use, and, oftentimes, misuse by inexperienced store personnel, make them prone to breakdowns and replacement. Keeping track of the related repairs, expenses and inventory is a time-consuming task at many chains. But not at Foot Locker Inc. The athletic footwear and apparel retailer outsources its vacuum-cleaner program, resulting in increased efficiencies and savings all around.

“It has helped us save money from both an equipment and management standpoint,” says Jim Steinman, corporate director of facilities services, Foot Locker Inc., New York City, which operates approximately 3,000 stores in the United States under the Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker and Champs Sports nameplates.

Foot Locker’s program, in place for several years, is operated by Vacuum Systems International (VSI) of Cleveland. Anytime a store has a problem with a vacuum cleaner, the associate calls VSI’s Vacuum Helpline. A technician at the call center determines the nature of the problem and then takes the appropriate action. For minor maintenance problems, the technician troubleshoots over the phone.

“The VSI help desk talks the store manager through the problem and the cleaner is fixed on the spot,” explains Steinman.

Major repairs are a different matter, in those instances, VSI takes a refurbished vacuum from the rotating, dedicated inventory it maintains for Foot Locker and sends it to the store. After the replacement arrives, the store associate sends the broken one back to VSI for repair (using the same box the replacement vacuum arrived in). A return label mad instructions on how to disassemble the vacuum for mailing are included.

“VSI takes care of everything,” Steinman says. “They do a very good job for us.”

VSI technicians repair, rebuild and refurbish the broken vacuum and then put it in the inventory for future use. Steinman says the refurbished vacuums often come back better than new.

“The VSI technicians might put a better cord on the unit, for example, than the factory did,” he explains, “Or they might reinforce a certain component. They are experienced in repairs, and that gives them a good feel for what is needed.”

Appearancewise, the refurbished vacuums are more than acceptable.

“They look new,” Steinman says. “VSI does a good job of cleaning them up.”

New Foot Locker locations are supplied with new vacuums that the chain purchases through VSI. The company consults with each client to determine the vacuum cleaner that best meets its application. vacuum cleaner covers 

“A lot of people think the more expensive the vacuum, the better it will hold up” says Diana Richards, president, VSI. “But price is not as important as the particular circumstances in the store, whether it is all carpet or combination carpet and bare floor, for instance, and what cleaning process is used and whether attachments are needed.”

Steinman receives a weekly report from VSI that details repairs and costs for each Foot Locker division. A more in-depth analysis is available if needed. VSI also monitors activity to see that the stores return broken vacuums for repair as directed.

“They track who is sending them back and who isn’t, reminding the ones that aren’t that they need to do so,” Steinman adds. “If the store still doesn’t respond, they alert me and, with the help of divisional operations, we get the vacuum returned to our inventory.”