CHICAGO – The Northeast was the lone bright spot for October dry cleaning sales, posting a 2.6% gain compared to sales for October 2010, according to the latest AmericanDrycleaner.com StatShot survey.
In comparing October 2011 sales to October 2010, the West saw a 0.6% decrease and the Midwest a 1.8% decline. The South was hit the hardest, with sales down 2.6% from a year earlier.
“It’s still scary out there, but we have managed to put together three really good months,” says a Southern operator. Another adds, “Last three weeks have shown a slight but steady increase in laundry and dry cleaning. Household items are about the same.”
“Since our town put in a smoking ban at bars and restaurants, we have been seeing a slowdown in dry cleaning,” reports a Midwestern dry cleaner. But another operator in the region says their sales have been up three months in a row after three years of almost steady decline.
“We used to live on cash flow,” laments an operator from the West. “Now, we are behind.”
The Midwest’s drop in sales may have been softened a bit by a 1.1% decline in utility costs from the previous October. Utility costs were up everywhere else last month: South, 2.0%; Northeast, 3.6%; and West, 5.6%.
“Although natural gas has been lower in price, all other utilities … have seen increases,” says a Northeastern operator. “Every supply has increased in price since October 2010. We are falling behind faster than we can increase our prices and profit. There are still too many cleaners chasing fewer garments.”
“Austin, Texas, utilities are rising among the highest in the nation to cover budget shortfalls,” reports a Southern operator. “They are projected to increase about 6% over the next few years.”
AmericanDrycleaner.com surveys the trade audience every month on a variety of issues facing the dry cleaning industry. While the StatShot survey presents a snapshot of operators’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.
Audience members are invited to participate in these anonymous 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.