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2019-20 State of the Self-Service Laundry Industry (Part 1)

Latest analysis continues to reflect industry’s strength

CHICAGO — How do you know if you stack up favorably with other laundry owners across town and around the country? Would you consider 2019 a good year or bad year for you? Are your vend prices in line with those of other store owners?

Answers to questions like these and more can be found in American Coin-Op’s annual State of the Industry survey report, which provides store owners and operators a valuable opportunity to compare their operation to others in the industry.

This year’s survey focused on 2019-20 business conditions, pricing, equipment, turns per day and utilities cost.

(Special note: Polling was conducted prior to the March 13 coronavirus pandemic emergency declaration and related work-from-home and other measures that followed that may have adversely impacted laundry business volume.)

When asked about their 2019 business results, respondents were given the opportunity to state whether their results were up, down or unchanged. Surveys conducted prior to 2012 asked respondents only if their business was up or down, so keep this in mind if you’re making comparions to results of that vintage.

The survey is an unscientific, online poll of American Coin-Op subscribers who operate stores. Some percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding or other factors.


Roughly 56% of respondents own just one self-service laundry, while 44.1% are multi-store owners (28.8% of total respondents own two or three stores, 15.3% own four or more stores).

Approximately 42% of respondents own their store space, 42.4% rent their store space, and the remaining 15.3% say the arrangement varies by property.

Fully attended stores among the audience account for 39.0%. Roughly 25% are partially attended, and 20.3% are unattended. Among the remaining 15.3%, the arrangement varies by store.

Nearly 90% of laundry owners polled employ either full-time or part-time workers in their stores. Roughly 46% of those respondents have four or more employees, while 32.2% employ two or three. The remaining 11.9% have only one employee (owner excluded).

On average, responding store owners have 1.6 full-time employees and 5.9 part-time employees (this calculation reflects averages by respondent, not by store).

As for payment types, 91.5% of respondents say they offer coin, 42.4% offer card, and 22.0% offer other non-coin systems (store owners were asked to identify every type that applies to their operations). Roughly 49% of respondents offer customers more than one type of payment (compared to 31% last year).

2019 BUSINESS VS. 2018

For 2019, 74.6% of operators say their overall vended laundry business increased from that of 2018. Specifically, these operators reported an increase in business (gross dollar volume) last year compared to 2018.

In our 2018-19 survey, 81.5% reported an increase, while 77.5% reported seeing sales growth in the survey prior.

The average 2019 business increase was 12.6%, up from 9.9% in 2018. Other past average business increases have been 9.4% (2017), 11.2% (2016), 9.6% (2015), 8.9% (2014), 9.6% (2013), 11.7% (2012), 11.5% (2011) and 10.8% (2010).

Following is a breakdown of 2019 business increases (the figures relate to those reporting increases, not all respondents):

  • Operators with a business increase of less than 10%: 34.1%;
  • Operators with a business increase of 10-14%: 45.5%;
  • Operators with a business increase of 15% or more: 20.5%.

Just shy of 12% of operators faced a decrease in business (in gross dollar volume) in 2019, up from roughly 8% in 2018. The percentage was 10% in 2017, 22% in 2016, 17% in 2015, 29% in 2014, 25% in 2013, 30% in 2012, 35% in 2011, and 58% in 2010.

The average 2019 business decrease was 7.5%, up from the 5.0% decline reported for 2018. Other prior average decreases have been 6.7% (2017), 9.1% (2016), 16.3% (2015), 6.6% (2014), 8.7% (2013), 9.5% (2012), 10.2% (2011) and 11.2% (2010).

Among respondents who reported experiencing business decreases in 2019, the decline was as low as 3% or as high as 20%.

Roughly 12% of respondents say their 2019 business was unchanged compared to 2018 business.

The self-service laundry industry remains healthy, on average, based on these survey results. While the share of responding operators who saw their 2019 business increase was seven percentage points less than the year before, the average business increase was nearly three percentage points higher.

The 11.9% of responding operators who saw their 2019 business decline was only slightly more than 2018’s accounting, and the average decrease of 7.5% only slightly exceeded the 5.0% reported for 2018.

Coming in Part 2 on Thursday: Drop-off, commercial and vending sales numbers, and the average turns per day

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