CHICAGO — This time a year ago, the self-service laundry industry was feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, an isolation-causing crisis that left many service businesses reeling. Certain industry performance numbers were the lowest they’d been in more than a decade.
But even from the valley, one can see the next peak. Our industry bounced back in a big way in 2021, according to American Coin-Op’s annual State of the Industry Survey report, and nearly 87% of operators polled say their total business improved last year.
The State of the Industry survey report provides a litany of statistics valuable to store owners and investors. This year’s survey focused on 2021-22 business conditions, pricing, equipment, turns per day and utilities cost.
When asked about their 2021 business results, respondents were given the opportunity to state whether their results were up, down or unchanged. (Surveys conducted prior to 2012 asked only if business was up or down, so keep this in mind if you’re making comparisons to results of that vintage.)
The survey is an unscientific, online poll of American Coin-Op readers who operate stores. Some percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding or other factors.
PURCHASED IN 2021
Slightly more than 53% of respondents purchased at least one piece of equipment (washer, dryer, water heater, vending machine, or other) in 2021, which is several percentage points higher than our last annual survey.
Following is a breakdown of 2021 purchases by respondent. (Editor’s note: Percentages do not total 100% because some buyers purchased equipment in multiple equipment categories.)
- 13.3% purchased at least one top loader, with the average buy being 10.6 machines.
- 45% purchased at least one front loader, with the average buy being 26.2 machines.
- 23.3% purchased at least one dryer (regular or stack), with the average buy being 42.7 machines. (Editor’s note: This accounting includes a small number of operators who each purchased more than 100 machines last year.)
- 13.3% purchased a water heater.
- 6.7% purchased a vending machine.
Ozone systems, water softeners, changers, payment systems, bulkheads and camera systems were also listed as having been purchased.
2022 SHOPPING LIST
Operators were also asked if they have purchased, or plan to purchase, new equipment in 2022.
Roughly 42% of respondents have added, or plan to add, some type of equipment (washer, dryer, water heater, vending machine, or other) to their mix in 2022. By comparison, last year’s percentage was 34%.
Following is a breakdown of purchases that operators have already made in 2022, or plan to make by the end of the year (percentages do not total 100% because some buyers purchased or plan to purchase equipment from multiple categories):
- 6.7% of respondents have purchased, or plan to purchase, a new top loader this year, with the average buy being 37.5 machines. (Editor’s note: This accounting includes a small number of operators who intend to purchase more than 100 machines each this year.)
- 21.7% of respondents have purchased, or plan to purchase, a new front loader this year, with the average buy being 12.1 machines.
- 15% of respondents have purchased, or plan to purchase, a new dryer this year, with the average buy being 29.3 machines. (Editor’s note: This accounting includes a small number of operators who intend to purchase more than 100 machines each this year.)
Among challenges commonly faced by today’s self-service laundry operator, a shortage of good labor has been the most prominent in recent months, but does it top our list? (Editor’s note: The first three choices in this year’s poll match the first trio of last year.)
American Coin-Op offered a list of eight, plus the chance to write in “other” choices, and asked operators to select all that apply.
Here are the results:
- High cost of utilities (56.7%)
- Finding/keeping good employees (51.7%)
- Labor costs (35%)
- Rental costs (30%)
- Maintenance costs (25%)
- Equipment abuse/vandalism (13.3%)
- Too much competition (10%)
- Poor industry image, and “other” (tie, 3.3% each)
Operators were asked about their 2021 utilities cost (as a percentage of gross). The responses ranged from 4.8% to 40%. Collectively, respondents paid an average of 19.5% for utilities, down slightly from 19.9% last year.
The most common individual response—as it was last year—was 20%. Whereas 69% of respondents reported a utilities cost of 20% or less last year, 57.5% reported the same this year.
For many operators, utilities account for their largest store expense, second only to rent or mortgage; 50% of respondents place it either first or second on their list of five common expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, payroll, insurance, and loan payment for new equipment). Two-thirds of respondents place rent or mortgage first or second on the list.
Meanwhile, insurance is the smallest store expense, numbered four or five on the list by 73.3%.
FORECAST FOR 2022
Roughly 63% of respondents are optimistic that their 2022 total business will be better than 2021’s. Thirty percent expect business to be about the same, while 6.7% say their business won’t perform as well in 2022 as it did in 2021.
If you missed any earlier parts, you can read them here: Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .