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Laundries Brace as Pandemic-Related Restrictions Tighten

Impact on businesses has been minimal so far: survey

CHICAGO — Social distancing is now part of our everyday lexicon thanks to novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Self-service laundry owners across the country are bracing for the pandemic’s impact on their businesses following President Trump’s national emergency declaration on Friday and restrictions being placed on public gatherings in efforts to slow the virus’ spread.

On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that in-person events consisting of 50 people or more and slated for the next eight weeks be canceled or postponed. During a press conference Monday afternoon, Trump called on Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

Many colleges have canceled classes for the semester and sent students home. Bars, restaurants, casinos, movie theaters and gyms have been ordered closed in some states.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all “nonessential” businesses there to shut down to help curb the spread of coronavirus and said it would be up to individual businesses and organizations to heed the order.

American Coin-Op sent a special Your Views survey to its audience on Sunday, asking how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their laundry operations. Through the first weekend after the emergency declaration, the impact has been minimal, based on the responses received.

Few respondents to the unscientific survey offering anonymity have made significant operational changes due to the pandemic but a sizable share have augmented store cleaning procedures and made additional supplies purchases, mostly of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Some owners noted an upswing in wash-dry-fold volume.

Asked to gauge the pandemic’s impact based on number of customers using their store’s services and the sales revenue received since Feb. 15, the average impact on a 0-to-100 scale (0 equals no impact, 100 equals major impact) was reported to be 21. Some operators said there’s been no impact on their stores while others pointed to impacts as high as 76.

Apart from the survey, store owners are making slight adjustments if needed but trying to avoid driving away customers.

“No changes in hours of operation will be made unless forced to by authorities, as we provide the means for the general public and various businesses … to sanitize clothing,” says Eric Pooler, president of Gold Star Cleaners, which operates seven Laundromats in Maine.

Tom Bright says he keeps his Bright’s Coin Wash in Illinois clean at all times but has been “spot wiping surfaces, seating, handles and just generally things that the public touches.” Business for the year has been good, even through last week, and he hopes the trend continues. He purposefully has not placed any signage about coronavirus in his store because he believe it’s unnecessary and doesn’t want to alarm customers.

Steve Lamiell, owner of the North Canton and Lake Cable Laundromats in Ohio, says his staff is sanitizing high-touch areas and has posted flyers asking customers to wash their hands, cover coughs/sneezes and to not enter the premises if they feel ill. He also offers touch-free hand sanitizers.

“We realize that our efforts aren’t going to stop the spread; however, we believe it will help prevent the spread and show our customers as well as our team that we care,” Lamiell says.

INDUSTRY EVENTS AFFECTED

The pandemic has also caused some industry events to be postponed or canceled.

PWS – The Laundry Company had planned Spring Sales between March 21 and March 28 at its South San Francisco, San Diego and South Gate, California, offices, but will now be shifting to personal one-on-one webinars, according to Co-President Brad Steinberg. More information will be forthcoming this week, he says.

The Coin Laundry Association has canceled its CLA Connect LIVE events during the month of April. All individuals who signed up for the events in Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas, New York and Florida will receive full refunds, CLA says.

No decision has been made about the fate of CLA’s Excellence in Laundry conference scheduled for May 12-14 in San Diego.

Texcare International, a Germany-based textile care industry exhibition that compares in size and scope to the U.S. Clean Show, has been shifted from June to November. New show dates will be released later.

The Association for Linen Management has postponed its IMPACT 2020 Conference and plans to announce an alternate date by March 27.

TRSA, the association for linen, uniform and facility services, canceled its 10th Annual Legislative Conference that would have been later this month and the Canadian CEO/Executive Roundtable previously scheduled for April 15-16.

Check out our Coronavirus Kiosk online for the latest pandemic guidance and news!