Will the pandemic wring out the dry cleaning industry?

dry cleaning industry coronavirus
Photo via Voyou Desoeuvre/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

Like many in the U.S, the dry cleaning industry has seen a significant drop in business since the pandemic began in March 2020. 

Mary Scalco, CEO of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, told the Milwaukee Journal that dry cleaners nationwide say they lost 90% of their business at the height of the lockdown in the spring. Even if they offered a pickup and delivery service, they still saw a 60-70% loss of revenue. 

Despite being considered an “essential business” in the U.S., dry cleaning company owners told USA Today that they lost most of their revenue when work offices closed and formal events were canceled. Regular customers didn’t need to have their office wear or formal attire dr- cleaned since they were sheltering-in-place

Additionally, many in the dry cleaning industry have contracts with hospitality services, like hotels and restaurants, and therefore saw a massive drop in revenue when people stopped eating out and traveling. 

Things could be looking up for dry cleaning company owners soon. Scalco said in early July that cleaners were starting to see 50% of the business they usually see this time of year. At least that would be a less of a loss than before. Research and Markets reported in early July that dry cleaners that specifically serve other companies might see an increase in demand as economies around the country reopen. 

“Companies that are dependent on cleaning business-wear are more likely to be negatively affected as a result of business closures and the move to working from home,” the article said. “While some companies that are more focused on business to business sales may see increased sales as their customers intensify cleaning efforts to minimize the risk of infection.” 

To give customers better peace of mind and hopefully bring their business back, Research and Markets recommends companies do the following: 

  • Tag and leave incoming laundry for 24 hours before handling it 
  • Avoid shaking clothing
  • Use separate baskets for unloading dirty and clean laundry
  • Avoid short cycles
  • Ensure clothing is dried thoroughly.
  • Consider adding extra sanitizing features to existing laundry equipment, like injecting ozone gas into cold water intakes to kill bacteria and viruses

Still, dry cleaner owners interviewed by the Sentinel said the pandemic could change their industry forever, as corporate offices consider remaining remote and people remain wary of attending large events. 

“If I was a business owner and I was renting office space for 20 grand and I just figured out I don’t even need to, why would you make people come back?” Linda Gruichich, the owner of Redi-Quick in Wisconsin, told the newspaper.

Others were more optimistic. 

“It comes and goes. The new norm that they’re talking about now … I think will stand for a while.” Todd Sneed, co-owner of Wolf’s Dry Cleaners and Laundry, said. “However, I just don’t think that it’ll stay like that forever.”

Sources: USA Today, Research and Markets

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