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2021-2022 State of the Industry Survey (Part 1)

Bouncing back from pandemic plunge in a BIG way

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 being in the valley makes it easy to 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, and nearly 87% of operators polled say their total business improved last year.

This 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.


One-half of respondents polled this year own just one self-service laundry, while the other half are multi-store owners (28.3% own two or three stores, 21.7% own four or more).

Approximately 36.7% of respondents own their store space, 48.3% rent their store space, and the remaining 15.0% say the arrangement varies by property.

Fully attended stores among the audience account for 41.7%. Roughly 32% are partially attended, and 16.7% are unattended. Among the remaining 10%, the arrangement varies by store.

More than 93% of laundry owners polled employ either part-time or full-time workers in their stores. Of these, 51.7% have four or more employees, 31.7% employ two or three, and 10% have only one employee.

On average, responding store owners have 5.8 full-time employees and 6.7 part-time employees (this calculation reflects averages by respondent, not by store).

As for payment types, 90% of respondents say they offer coin, 50% offer card, and 18.3% offer other non-coin systems (store owners were asked to identify every type that applies to their operations). Roughly 53% of respondents offer customers more than one type of payment, compared to 48% last year.

2021 BUSINESS VS. 2020

For 2021, a whopping 86.7% of operators say their overall self-service vended laundry business in gross dollar volume increased from that of 2020.

In our 2020-21 survey, just 35.6% reported an increase, while 74.6% reported seeing sales growth in the survey prior. Beginning with the 2012-13 survey, between 54% and 81.5% of respondents had reported business increases annually until last year’s survey.

The average 2021 business increase was 17%, up from 7.1% in 2020. Other past average business increases have been 12.6% (2019), 9.9% (2018), 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 2021 business increases (the figures relate to those reporting increases, not all respondents):

  • Operators with a business increase of less than 10%: 20.8%;
  • Operators with a business increase of 10-14%: 24.5%;
  • Operators with a business increase of 15% or more: 54.7%.

Less than 4% of operators polled faced a decrease in total business (in gross dollar volume) in 2021, compared to roughly 58% in 2020. Results from previous years showed the following shares whose total business declined: 12% in 2019, 8% in 2018, 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 2021 business decrease was 20.0%, which nearly matched the 20.5% average decline reported for 2020. Other prior average decreases have been 7.5% (2019), 5.0% (2018), 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 decreased business in 2021, the decline was as low as 5% or as high as 35%.

Ten percent of respondents say their 2021 business was unchanged compared to 2020 business.

We asked: How have you adjusted your laundry operation due to the coronavirus pandemic, if at all? Among those who replied (nearly half of respondents didn’t), it was a coin flip if they adjusted or not: 50% yes, 50% no.

Most often, those who made adjustments required masking and social distancing per local authority, implemented more extensive cleaning practices, and/or changed their hours of operation.

Coming in Part 2 on Thursday: Drop-off pricing, commercial pricing, and vending sales; plus average turns per day

2021-2022 State of the Industry Survey

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

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