Annual Distributors Survey Offers Mixed Results (Part 1)

Bruce Beggs |

53.1% say year-over-year biz was better in 2017 compared to 2016

CHICAGO — The share of distributors reporting their business had improved year-over-year declined for the fourth straight year, yet still represented the majority polled in American Coin-Op’s annual Distributors Survey. A majority of distributors is also expecting overall 2018 sales to surpass those of 2017.

Slightly more than half of distributors polled (53.1%) say that business—including sales of newly constructed vended laundries and replacement business—was better in 2017 compared to 2016. When it comes to sales projections, a slightly larger share (56.3%) believe their company’s 2018 overall sales will be better than 2017’s.

Approximately 22% of respondents say 2017 business was worse than 2016’s, while 25.0% say that business has stayed the same.

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 2017 business and makes comparisons to previous years. In this summary report, percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

2017 BUSINESS

This year, 53.1% of distributors who were polled said business was better in 2017 than 2016. That’s down from last year’s report in which 63.6% of distributors said 2016 business was better than 2015. The share of distributors reporting better business compared to the prior year was 67.4% in the 2016 survey and 68.3% in the 2015 survey.

Those who described their business in 2017 as being “better” attributed their company’s performance to a better business climate; tax breaks; economic growth; aggressive and consistent marketing and advertising; higher consumer confidence; and new equipment saving significant utility costs, among other reasons.

The share whose business suffered in 2017 said factors like less customer demand, higher taxes and impact fees, government regulation, increased distributor competition, and a lack of available locations adversely impacted their company’s performance for the year.

REPLACEMENT BUSINESS

Just shy of 68% of distributors polled say their replacement business was up in 2017 compared to 2016. This is better than last year’s survey in which roughly 62% of distributors reported better 2016-over-2015 replacement business. It’s comparable to the 2016 survey (64%), and slightly behind the 2015 survey (73.2%).

Roughly 19% of respondents say they saw 2017 replacement business decrease from that of 2016, while 12.9% say it remained unchanged.

NEW-LAUNDRY CONSTRUCTION

American Coin-Op asked distributors to list the number of new laundries they built and/or to which they supplied equipment in 2017.

In this year’s survey, the share of distributors that built and/or supplied equipment to three or fewer stores represented almost two-thirds of poll respondents, or 62.1%. In comparison to previous surveys, that number was 48.8% in 2016, 40.5% in 2015, and 69.2% in 2014.

Companies building or supplying equipment to four or more new laundries in 2017 accounted for 37.9% of the total. In 2016, that number was 51.2%.

The actual number of new laundries that distributors were involved with in some way in 2017 ranged from just a single store to one respondent reporting his/her company dealt with 25 stores.

Following is a rundown of the most popular answers from this year’s survey:

1) 1

2) 2 and 3 (tie)

Just shy of one-quarter of distributors surveyed (23.3%) said their new-construction total for 2017 was higher than the previous year. Comparing to previous surveys, 33.3% said their new-construction business was up for 2016; 35% said it was up for 2015; and roughly 48% said it was up for 2014.

Roughly 47% of distributors surveyed said their new-construction total was lower in 2017 than in 2016, which is up significantly from the 29% of distributors who said that total was lower in 2016 than 2015. Earlier surveys showed 24% with lower totals in 2015 than 2014, 15% with lower totals in 2014 than in 2013, and 17% with lower totals in 2013 than in 2012.

Thirty percent of distributors polled said their new-construction total for 2017 remained the same as 2016. That compares to 38% of distributors reporting no change in 2016 from 2015, 41% in 2015 from 2014, and 38% in 2014 from 2013.

Check back Thursday for Part 2: Equipment mix and store size trends

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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