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StatShot: April Dry Cleaning Sales Up Across the Board; Payrolls Down on Average

Bruce Beggs |

CHICAGO — Dry cleaning sales grew between 2.0% and 2.4% in every region of the United States last month, the latest AmericanDrycleaner.com StatShot survey reports. Meanwhile, all regions report having decreased payrolls since this time last year.

When business results for April were compared to the same month last year, operators in the Northeast collectively posted the biggest gain at 2.4%, followed by the South (2.2%), Midwest (2.1%) and West (2.0%).

“We are seeing much higher sales (up 18% from last year) in our store than other cleaners in our surrounding area (within 10 miles),” says an operator from the West. “It’s probably due to our pricing (we’re discounted dry cleaners with $2.50 base price), along with our smart marketing/ads and improvement in quality of press with new equipment.”

“Steady. The Midwest economy has been steady the past 6-9 months due in part to the ag industry and supporting businesses,” adds a Midwest cleaner.

“I think all of us have adapted to seeing less economic growth and are now living with the consequences,” reports a Northeast operator. “Dry cleaning volume has been steady for the past few months but shirt laundering has grown by 20% in the same time period. If you produce a top-quality shirt and make it the centerpiece of your business instead of seeing it as a nuisance, your business will survive.”

Another Northeast cleaner has come to rely on a unique clientele. “Being in a suppressed area of Troy, N.Y., has forced many white-collar workers to move, but I’m thankful for the drug dealers and cops that patronize my shop. I’m thinking of changing my name to ‘Cops and Robbers Cleaners.’”

Despite the overall increases, some cleaners are finding times to be tough.

“Dry cleaning is down, (so we’re) making up and gaining through carpet cleaning, floor waxing (and) janitorial services,” reports an operator from the South. “Overall, the dry cleaning business is in decline and has been since I started in 2006.”

“The year started out fast and furious, up over 20% over the first quarter, but April and now into May has been soft; down in April and even in May,” says a Midwest cleaner. “Unemployment continues to be the biggest problem to continued growth. The employment market is very soft here in the Chicago area.”

“We’ve been raising prices to keep up with rising costs and still make a profit, so far without an outcry from our clients,” adds a Northeast operator.

Every region reported having cut back on payrolls since April 2011. The biggest was in the Midwest, where operators reported an average decrease of 2%.

Next was the West, where payrolls are down 1.1% from last April. The declines are less significant in the South (0.7%) and the Northeast (0.1%).

Many operators have reduced payrolls only slightly or not at all, but AmericanDrycleaner.com did receive reports of payrolls being cut by 30% in some cases.

The StatShot surveys the trade audience every month on a variety of issues facing the industry. While the survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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