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Annual Distributor Survey: Smoothing Out That Pandemic Dent (Part 1)

60% say year-to-year total business was better last year compared to 2020

CHICAGO — Another year into life with COVID-19, a sizable share of laundry equipment and parts distributors found their business on the upswing, based on results of our 2022 American Coin-Op Distributor Survey.

Sixty percent of distributors polled in the annual survey say that their total business—including sales of newly constructed vended laundries and replacement business—was better in 2021 compared to 2020. That’s 14 percentage points higher than the year before.

Twenty percent of respondents say their 2021 business was worse than 2020’s, and 20% say that business stayed the same compared to the prior year.

As for how distributors expect their 2022 overall sales will compare to those of 2021, more than three-quarters of those polled are predicting even brighter things this year.

Distributors listed in the previous edition of the American Coin-Op Distributors Directory were invited to participate in this year’s unscientific survey, which charts 2021 business and makes comparisons to previous years. In this summary report, percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.


This year, 60% of distributors who were polled said business was better in 2021 than 2020. That’s up from last year’s survey in which 45.5% of distributors said 2020 business was better than 2019’s, and nearing the share of distributors who said 2019 business was better than 2018’s (67.7%).

The share of distributors reporting better business in prior annual surveys was 56.3% in 2019, 53.1% in 2018, 63.6% in 2017, and 67.4% in 2016.

Some of those who described their 2021 total business as being “better” attributed their company’s performance to more favorable business conditions as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes; greater access to project financing; more investors entering the laundry industry; and backlogged orders from 2020 finally being filled.

The portion whose business suffered last year blamed it on factors such as supply chain issues and increased lead times from manufacturers; an inability to build at a price point, and higher costs for materials; and even the “democratic failure of our country.”


The area of replacement business rebounded from its pandemic dip of 2020, with 55% of distributors polled saying their 2021 replacement business was up compared to 2020’s. By comparison, just 31.8% of distributors surveyed last year said that segment was up for them in 2020 compared to 2019.

In older surveys, the share was 61% in 2020, 58% in 2019, 68% in 2018, 62% in 2017 and 64% in 2016.

Twenty percent of respondents say they saw 2021 replacement business decrease from that of 2020, while 25% say it remained unchanged.


American Coin-Op asked distributors to list the number of new laundries they built and/or to which they supplied equipment in 2021.

In this year’s survey, the share of distributors that built and/or supplied equipment to three or fewer stores accounted for 46.7% of respondents. In previous surveys, that number was 47.8% for 2020, 51.7% for 2019, 58.6% for 2018, 62.1% for 2017, and 48.8% for 2016.

Companies building, or supplying equipment to, four or more new laundries in 2021 accounted for 53.3% of the total. That compares to 52.2% in 2020, 48.3% in 2019, 41.4% in 2018 and 37.9% in 2017.

The actual number of new laundries that distributors were involved with in some way in 2021 ranged from none to one respondent reporting his or her company dealt with 93 new stores.

Forty-five percent of distributors polled said their new-construction total for 2021 was higher than the previous year’s. In older surveys, the new-construction total was up for 46% for 2020, 62% for 2019, 46.9% for 2018, 23.3% for 2017, and 33.3% for 2016.

Thirty percent of distributors surveyed said their new-construction total was lower in 2021 than in 2020. In previous polls, the share was 32% for 2020, 10% for 2019, 22% for 2018, 47% for 2017 and 29% for 2016.

One-quarter of distributors polled this year said their new-construction total for 2021 remained the same as 2020’s. That compares to 23% for 2020, 29% for 2019, 31% for 2018, 30% for 2017 and 38% for 2016.

In Part 2 on Tuesday: equipment mix and store size trends

Annual Distributor Survey: Smoothing Out That Pandemic Dent

(Photo: © remicki/Depositphotos)

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