CHICAGO — A sales heat wave swept over the South as July year-over-year sales for dry cleaners there rose 5.7%, according to results in this month’s American Drycleaner StatShot survey.
Midwest dry cleaners also saw healthy sales gains last month, up 4.3% from the same period last year, while dry cleaners in the West and Northeast reported only slight increases of 1.9% and 0.7%, respectively.
Operating a business has gotten more expensive for many cleaners, with respondents in the South reporting a 4.6% increase in operations costs on average for the first half of 2014 compared to the same period last year.
Costs were up slightly in the Midwest (1.6%) and West (1.1%), while dry cleaners in the Northeast reported cutting operation costs by an average of 1.0%.
“[We are] growing in a shrinking market,” a Northeast operator says. “Competitors continue to close.”
“We keep paying more to try to get better workers,” adds another.
“Our tax structure is destroying our industry,” says an operator from the South. “I’m paying thousands more per month in taxes than I ever dreamed I could make, and I draw very little to exist on.”
“Natural gas prices have almost doubled beginning in February of 2014, and continue to be high throughout the summer,” says a Midwest dry cleaner. “If these prices continue, there will be outrage by December.”
Several owners and operators in the West also reported their struggle with increasing utilities costs, while another added that there is “less demand for dry cleaning.”
“Discretionary spending is still down,” says another operator there.
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 surveys, which are conducted online at AmericanDrycleaner.com. All dry cleaners are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define industry trends.