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Survey: Two of Five Dry Cleaners Working Longer Today Than Five Years Ago

CHICAGO – Roughly 42% of dry cleaners are working more hours today than they were five years ago, according to the results of this month’s American Drycleaner Your Views survey.   

While 32.1% say that their schedules are “about the same,” a little more than a quarter of respondents report that they are not working more hours than they were five years ago (26.3%). 

“I work fewer hours due to bringing in a future partner,” says one respondent. “I have reduced my personal compensation, thus allowing me to have [the employee] here and reduce my responsibilities.”

When asked what their most time-consuming tasks are, the majority of respondents points to production/quality control (68.1%). Bookkeeping/accounting (42%) and customer service (39.1%) were next. (Respondents were invited to select up to three choices from a list.)

Maintenance/troubleshooting (37.7%); personnel management (35.5%); marketing promotions (23.9%); and other tasks (3.6%), such as “covering other people’s jobs,” were among some of the other time-consuming tasks dry cleaners manage.

A sizable share of cleaners also report they are employing fewer staff members than they were five years ago (43.0%).

“Just a few short years ago, I could afford to have some backup personnel. Now with the slow or flat sales, there is no money for backups,” says one respondent. “As a [small business owner], this puts a tremendous stress on me personally. I have to be there and produce at all times.”

While 34.8% of respondents say that their employee roster has remained “about the same,” 22.2% say that they have more employees than five years ago. Some dry cleaners say they man their store by themselves, while others oversee many employees, with one store owner saying his/her dry cleaning business has 110 employees.

“I have more employees than I ever had, yet I’m working more hours than I ever have,” says another store owner.

In terms of outlook on the industry, some respondents say that reinvention is key.

“Our industry needs to rethink our role in meeting the new expectations and customer needs,” says one cleaner. “[Customer needs] have changed and most owners … do not recognize the need to change and adapt.” 

“All of the complaining in the world is not going to alter the economy or the rapidly changing consumer,” says another respondent. “We need to stay lean, adapt quickly and keep having fun at it.” 

While American Drycleaner’s Your Views survey presents a snapshot of the trade audience’s viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Subscribers to American Drycleaner e-mails are invited each month to participate in a brief industry survey they can complete anonymously.

The entire American Drycleaner audience is encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define owner/operator opinions and industry trends.

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