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A New (Brighter?) Year

Cleaners share their outlook for 2021

For the first American Drycleaner Your Views survey of the year, we asked owners and operators of cleaning businesses, “What is your outlook for your business in 2021?” and the answers were surprisingly optimistic. Here are the results:

Our survey revealed that 21 % of respondents were “expecting much better results in 2021,” while 33.3% thought “things will be slightly better than 2020, but we have higher hopes for 2022.” Another 20% were staying the course, saying, “we’re hoping for the best, but 2020 taught us to prepare for the worst.” Not everyone was so hopeful, though, with 17% saying “there’s no reason to believe 2021 will be any better than 2020,” and 7% believing that “2021 will continue 2020’s downward spiral.”

When the pandemic hit, customer demand changed almost overnight. Our survey asked, “What steps has your business taken to adapt to changing consumer behavior?” The answers included the following:

  • “We really pushed our home delivery routes. We closed stores where leases ran out and shortened our hours.”
  • “We have closed our physical locations and have gone to a pickup and delivery service using someone else’s facility.”
  • “Streamlined routes, pushing more residential.”
  • “Pivoted to other revenue streams (such as wash, dry, fold) and healthcare needs, (such as PPE and gowns). Offered contactless home delivery and cut expenses as much as possible.”
  • “Increased our marketing efforts to support our route.”

We also asked, “What is the most important thing that needs to happen before your business can start to return to normal?” The two most popular answers by far were “People start to return to their offices (43%) and “Broad distribution of an effective vaccine” (34%).

Many experts suggest that, to maintain or to grow their market share, dry cleaners should market more aggressively to remind customers about their services and advertise new offerings. In our survey, 27.5% say they’re going to increase their marketing efforts, while 42% will keep their marketing budget where they are. Only 4% said they would decrease their budget, but 26% stated that they had no resources to pursue marketing at all.

Finally, we asked what one piece of advice our respondents wish they could have given themselves at this time last year before the pandemic hit. The responses are sounds guidance for the future:

  • “I was financially prepared for four months of a disaster; I should have prepared for a year+.”
  • “Always make sure you have enough reserves in the bank for a rainy day.”
  • “Close underproducing drop stores.”
  • “Don’t count on growth every year.”
  • “More customer interactions/more marketing.”
  • “Always look for the little wings — there are more silver linings today than ever!”

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

New Brighter Drycleaner Year
New Brighter Drycleaner Year

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].