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Drycleaning Owners View of the Economy

Impact on 2018 drycleaning business; expectations for 2019

CHICAGO — We asked our audience in this 2018 year-end American Drycleaner Your Views survey to tell us: “Is your drycleaning business generating more sales today than at this same time last year?” You responded this way:

“Absolutely, much more,” say 10%. “Yes, slightly more,” say 33%. “Same,” say 22%. “No, less,” say 27%. “Not at all, much less,” say 8%. (See graphic.)

We also asked: “If your sales have improved in 2018, what factors were responsible? (Check all that apply.)” Note: percentages in these multiple answers add up to more than 100%.

We received these responses: “Customer base increased,” say 42%. “Competition decreased,” say 39%. “Costs/expenses decreased,” say 10%. “Offered additional service or extra-profit centers,” say 13%. “Boosted marketing efforts,” say 19%. “Increased prices,” say 52%. “Other,” say 23%.

Among the “Other” replies, respondents answered:

  • “We purposely shrunk our business due to some changes to how we do things (turnaround time, etc). Now we’re moving forward and growing again in the new normal.”
  • “Rebranding; redesigned website; started advertising on social media.”
  • “My competitor’s store burned recently and I am going to build a new store soon.”

The survey asks: “What is the best thing that happened to your business in 2018?”

Respondents answered: 

  • “More customers who aren’t afraid to spend a little money now.”
  • “Replaced old equipment.”
  • “Focusing on new wholesale accounts. Offering more services and diversifying to increase customer base.”
  • “Other drycleaning owners going out of business.”
  • “Simplified our operation. Changed from three shifts to one shift only.”
  • “Changed computer systems, bought new delivery trucks, and rebranded, including updated logo.”

The survey also asks: “If your sales haven’t improved since this time last year, what do you blame it on?”

Respondents answered: 

  • “Decreased personal spending, inexpensive and simple wardrobes being produced and worn by millennials.”
  • “Inexpensive clothes that do not need ironing and/or pressing. Also a big factor is, in our area, people are not dressing up, even for church.”
  • “Trickle-down economy hasn’t trickled down to this industry.”
  • “The way people dress, and too many dry cleaners serving too few customers.”

The survey asks: “What are your own business expectations for 2019?”

Forty-four percent of respondents indicated they had confidence their business will keep improving, however 56% indicated they felt their business will stay about the same (28%) or remain in decline (28%).

When the survey asks: “What makes you say that?” Respondents commented: 

  • “This area is growing and, as always, when things are going well, we reinvest into our business.”
  • “We are actively looking to grow other commercial opportunities.”
  • “New movers coming to town.”
  • “The size of the market is not growing.”
  • “Less people coming in the door, and small poundage numbers.”
  • “Until people change their dressing habits, we will continue to struggle to increase sales from a declining volume of garments.”

The survey concludes by asking, “Anything else you’d like to add about textile care in the current U.S. business climate?”

Respondents commented: 

  • “Always be aware that our market is ever-changing.”
  • “Seems to be a lost cause.”
  • “We continue to grow each year, just not at a rate that we did historically in the past. We must continue to create value in the customer experience so that our business and profit will continue.”
  • “It’s not easy; working harder then before. I can’t tell anymore what’s going to happen. Scary.”
  • “Read your labels, often!”
  • “Tough.”

The Your Views survey offers a current snapshot of the trade audience’s views. Qualified subscribers to American Drycleaner e-mails are invited to participate anonymously in the unscientific poll.