CHICAGO — With a new year comes a renewed sense of optimism for many, but after some challenging times, there are more than a few small-business owners who might feel a little hesitant when opening the first chapter of 2023. What will the new year have in store for the drycleaning industry?
For this American Drycleaner Your Views survey, we asked our audience about what they believe the coming year will bring to them and their businesses.
When asked what they believe their sales volume will look like in 2023 when compared to the last couple of years, the majority see a brighter future, with 15.4% saying volume will be “much improved,” and 50% believing they will see a “slow but steady increase.” About a quarter (21.2%) think “it will remain at current levels,” while 9.6% reported they expect “fewer items coming in,” and 3.8% feel they are in for a “steep decline.”
- When asked about the steps they are taking to improve business in the coming years, our respondents offered multiple paths to success. Some of these included:
- Better training for the employees, and perhaps a chance to be more selective in the accounts that we take on.
- Advertise more and provide educational information to our customers.
- We closed our store because it was a big distraction with so many onetime customers. We moved to a 24/7 locker pick-up and drop-off at our store. We will focus on our route business without the daily distractions of the store.
- A continued emphasis on knowledge, time and effort. Attracting premium garments, doing premium work, at a premium price.
Most of our respondents also believe that one of the thornier issues that has hounded the drycleaning industry — the labor market shortage — will start to stabilize. Just over half (53.8%) believe that labor “will remain a major pain, but not get any worse,” while 23.1% feel that “it will start to become easier to find people to work.” On the ends of the spectrum, 3.8% predicted “people will be coming in, looking for jobs,” while 19.2% forecast that “staffing will become even more difficult.”
When it comes to inflation, another issue that has been dogging the economy in the past year, our respondents’ outlook was more of a mixed bag. Almost an equal number believe “inflation will be on the rise all year, and so will prices” (40.4%) and “pricing will continue to rise, but level off in 2023” (36.5%). “Prices will be steady, neither dropping nor rising” was the prediction of 11.5%, while 9.6% believe “inflation will gradually decrease during 2023” and 1.9% feel “we’ve seen the worse, and things will start to quickly improve.”
We also asked, “What do you believe will have to occur in 2023 for dry cleaners to see a true economic recovery?” Many of our respondents said that people going back to the office would be welcomed news. Other answers included:
- Inflation gets under control and global stability. Everyone is worried.
- Inflation has to decrease, and fuel prices must go down at least 25% — the cost of doing business has to decrease.
- A continued reduction in the overall number of production plants. Marginal operations will quietly close and those with expertise in technical areas and management of total resources will enjoy prosperity.
We concluded our questions by asking for additional comments from our respondents. Responses included:
- Quality cleaning will always do well, and keep putting prices up — people will pay for quality.
- There has been a big shake out in the industry, with many cleaners going out of business. In my area, I see it and I am getting many new customers looking for a new cleaner.
- I believe we are currently back to life as usual. Some clients and business have disappeared. Just like every business, you have to hustle ahead rather than continue to look behind.
The “Your Views” survey offers a current snapshot of the trade audience’s views. The publication invites qualified subscribers to American Drycleaner emails to participate anonymously in the unscientific poll each quarter.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].