CHICAGO — More than half of dry cleaners asked to offer their rough forecasts for sales in 2012 believe that volume will improve in their area next year, according to the results of American Drycleaner’s final Wire survey for 2011.
Sales volume will either “improve substantially, with at least a 5% year-to-year gain” (20%) or “bounce back a little, with a gain of 0% to 5%” (32%), these respondents predict.
Often, an increase in business for one cleaner means that other cleaners may be suffering or have even closed. “Several good-quality establishments sold and it’s getting harder to find a very good dry cleaner, which is good for me,” says one of the fortunate.
“We’re getting referrals every day,” beams another. “We’ve acquired two competitor routes. We’re looking to a third acquisition.”
Even those predicting higher volume next year know that things won’t be easy. “During the last three years, many people have discovered that they can get through life just fine without dry cleaning,” says a cleaner who is predicting a small bounce back. “It will be an uphill battle to convince them to return to our stores.”
Thirty-six percent of respondents predict that volume will stay “essentially flat” in 2012, while 8% foresee a “slow-but-steady” year-to-year decline of 0% to 5%. Only 4% predict volume will “continue to decline quickly, at a rate of 5% or more.”
Those predicting lower sales blame it generally on the economy, and more specifically on poor quality and customer service by dry cleaners.
“Dry cleaners simply don't get it. This industry is not just for profit,” says one respondent who foresees sales continuing to fall quickly. “It takes work and constant education and improvement. They should learn this quickly before they all begin to fail.”
When asked about initiatives they have planned to help increase sales in 2012, many respondents said their efforts would involve continuing or improving upon their marketing programs to increase visibility.
Others are targeting route sales, training their customer service representatives to cross-sell, and increasing promotion of specialty cleaning and pressing services.
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.