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Survey: Business Casual Dress Code Still Dampening Drycleaning Sales

CHICAGO — Most dry cleaners rue the trend that has seen many dress codes shift to business casual, and more than three-quarters of respondents (76.1%) to this month’s Wire survey say the ongoing movement toward casual clothing in the workplace has had a major impact on the industry.

Approximately 22% say the business casual dress code has had a “minor impact,” and 2.2% say it has had no impact.

What impact has casual clothing had on overall drycleaning sales volume in the last few years? Roughly 43% say their sales have decreased substantially (more than 5%) each year, and 31.8% say theirs has decreased slowly (0-5%).

Nearly 14% say their sales have been flat. Sales have increased slowly (0-5%) each year for 6.8% of respondents, and 4.5% say their sales have increased substantially (more than 5%).

So, what if anything, has your plant done to respond to this trend? Among Wire survey respondents, 53.3% have explored new sidelines to fill excess plant capacity and 46.7% have targeted casual clothing as a source of business.

Roughly 18% have encouraged a return to more formal business attire, and a similar share of respondents have tried other things, including increasing routes, adding hotel uniform and valet work, and targeting a higher-income clientele.

Nearly 16% have done none of the above.

This topic generated a lot of comments from the cleaners who responded to the survey. Here is a selection:

  • “I believe that the casual to dirty dress code is never going away. Men are basically pigs at heart and now they are permitted to dress that way with no repercussions.”
  • “Casual dress does not apply to financial establishments, so I try to get them as my customers.”
  • “It is hard to see impact on sales because of the recession. I am sure it has hurt sales starting several years ago. Casual dress started about 20 years ago and has slowly impacted sales each year.”
  • “We feel there is a market for casual clothing. Primarily because consumers still don’t want to laundry at home.”
  • “Casual clothing along with stain-resistant fabrics, no-press fabrics and increasingly sophisticated home washing/drying equipment have all had some impact. Things as subtle as smoking bans that are becoming increasingly popular have also affected cleaning volume incrementally. Those longing for the days when everyone dressed up and volume was seemingly endless are gone. The best operators have learned to adapt by increasing market share of a shrinking market.”
  • “I refuse to talk to a salesman dressed in casual clothing.”
  • “We always make a point of dressing professionally in our plant. Don’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk!”

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.

wire survey graph
wire survey graph

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