Survey: 40% of Dry Cleaners Plan to Add Commercial Service or Expand Capacity

Bruce Beggs |

CHICAGO — It’s not unusual for a retail dry cleaner to also offer a commercial service, and hotel/motel guest dry cleaning is the most common one offered among the operators polled in this month’s Wire survey.

Sixty percent of operators that responded to the anonymous survey provide dry cleaning for hotel/motel guests. Next most popular is uniform/workwear services at 40%, followed closely by “other” at 33.3%. Services listed as “other” included police uniforms, table linen and chef jackets for catering companies, and spa linens.

Roughly 27% of respondents process healthcare linens, 20% clean restaurant/food service linens, and 13.3% process hotel/motel linens and napery.

Forty percent of respondents say they plan to add a commercial service or expand their existing commercial capacity in the next 12 months. The remainder is not planning additions or expansion.

Respondents that offer commercial services say this work accounts for, on average, 4.9% of their gross sales and 4.4% of their profits.

There are some challenges in successfully integrating commercial accounts into a dry cleaning operation, according to most respondents:

  • “(It’s) hard to combine the high-end product quality mindset with that of commercial/wholesale to still make a similar margin.”
  • “You must under bid to get the contracts…under bidding your own normal prices.”
  • “It’s disruptive to providing retail services.”
  • “Pickup and delivery is essential for these services. The operator needs to have the equipment to handle the load and the cleaning i.e. laundry equipment, dryers and pressing equipment. Plants that don’t do shirts probably don’t have the equipment to handle the load, so a sizable investment is in order. The investment may not be worth the risk.”
  • “Sometimes, collections becomes an issue. But any additional profitable service you can offer within your current infrastructure will obviously help the bottom line.”

While the Wire survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.

Subscribers to Wire e-mails—distributed twice weekly—are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each month. All dry cleaners are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and industry trends.

To sign up for the Wire, click the “Subscriptions” button at the top right-hand corner of this page and follow the instructions.

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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