CHICAGO — Dry cleaners across the country faced a difficult December, as year-over-year sales last month were down in all four regions, according to this month’s American Drycleaner StatShot survey.
Dry cleaners in the Northeast took the hardest hit, as sales fell 2.7% over December 2012, with many in the area reporting weak market conditions.
“During the quarter … holidays and snowstorms affected volume,” one says. “Ridiculous pricing by competitors also exists. Shirt price of $1.39 is insulting to those of us who used to charge $1.50 in 1998. Obviously, costs have increased over 16 years, so it’s absolutely unfathomable that these people could be charging that rate and making any money.”
December sales also fell in the South and West, down 1.5% and 1.4%, respectively, while store owners in the Midwest only saw a modest dip in December year-over-year sales, down 0.1%.
“After a year of nice growth, December was a bit disappointing,” says a store owner from the South. “Some of our growth … is due to the addition of a new route. Counter sales grew by about 5% for the year, and most of this was [due to] a price increase of about 4% as of May. Our area continues to have lots of empty storefronts. Even the major shopping centers have a few. The rebounds of the stock market are not seen in average America.”
December sales for most dry cleaners across the country set the tone for fourth-quarter 2013 sales, as cleaners in the South and Northeast saw sales fall 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively, over the same quarter in 2012.
While fourth-quarter 2013 sales for dry cleaners in the West remained unchanged over fourth-quarter 2012, dry cleaners in the Midwest were the only ones to see sales in the quarter increase, up 1.8%.
“After Christmas, sales dropped [and] continues to present,” says a dry cleaner from the West. “Year, however, is up 8.5% in 2013 from 2012.”
“Although sales were up for the fourth quarter, and November and December, the market remains weak,” adds a Midwest dry cleaner. “Unemployment and underemployment remain the biggest obstacles to more and consistent business.”
Some in the area blame the recent cold snap to poor sales.
“The extreme winter weather coupled with the proliferation of dry cleaners, and the continuing reduction of available garments to be cleaned, make for the perfect storm,” says a cleaner from the Midwest.
“Conditions are stagnant. No signs of any improvement in the economy in my markets,” adds another. “My goal for 2014 is to reduce couponing, which I had increased during the Great Recession.”
The StatShot surveys the drycleaning trade audience each month on a variety of financial issues. While the survey presents a snapshot of market performance, it should not be considered scientific.
American Drycleaner audience members are invited via e-mail to participate anonymously in the unscientific surveys, which are conducted online via a partner website. All dry cleaners are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define industry trends.