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Laundry Owners Take Pride in Offering ‘Essential’ Service: Survey

Frequent cleaning/sanitizing, limiting self-service customers becoming norm during pandemic

CHICAGO — With the U.S. now into its fourth week of the COVID-19 pandemic national emergency, non-essential businesses have been ordered closed in most states. But even in states with closure orders, laundries are allowed to remain open as an “essential” or “critical” public service. Still, the impact on the industry has been notable.

Based on results from the latest unscientific American Coin-Op Your Views survey, which closed Monday, many store owners are taking pride in knowing their business is playing a role in managing the crisis and are doing what they can to minimize the risks.

Here are some of the responses when asked about a laundry being deemed an “essential” service:

  • “It is really something of an honor. I always try to remember that our industry is vital in many people’s lives, but this crisis certainly demonstrates that idea.”
  • “We are happy to be able to provide a service that may help members of (our) community stay healthy by keeping their clothing and bedding sanitary. However, it is scary to do our job cleaning and sanitizing for customer safety and possibly carrying this home to our families.”
  • “Thankful I’m allowed to stay open. Customers are showing much more appreciation.”
  • “It feels great to be essential. However, business drastically came to a halt because people are scared to come out to use.”
  • “Our team is honored, yet stressed to be considered essential. Some people do not realize how vital clean laundry is during these times, which is unfortunate.”

Even when allowed to remain open, there is a greater emphasis on frequent cleaning and sanitizing and on social distancing—keeping people from being within 6 feet of another individual, based on government-issued guidelines.

Are you taking special measures in response to the pandemic? Here are some of the things our survey respondents are doing (they were allowed to select any or all):

  • Cleaning/sanitizing laundry equipment and store fixtures more often — 93.6%
  • Posted new signage (hours, services, safe laundering, etc.) — 76.6%
  • Limiting number of people in store at one time — 61.7%
  • Promoting social distancing by removing chairs/tables, blocking machines — 48.9%
  • Increasing advertising/social media efforts — 34.0%
  • Emphasizing wash/dry/fold or pickup/delivery service — 31.9%
  • Other — 27.7%
  • I’m taking no special measures — 4.3%

As for how greatly the pandemic has impacted laundry business operations, respondents were asked to rank it on a 0-to-100 scale (0 equals no impact, 100 equals major impact), based on 1) the number of customers they’ve served, and 2) sales revenue they’ve received, both since February 15.

On average, respondents ranked the pandemic’s impact at 53. Individual responses ranged from 5 to 100. Here are some of the explanations for how store owners have been impacted:

  • “Foot traffic is down 50% or more depending on the day. Requests for pickup and delivery service is up 50%.”
  • “Negatively. We suspended WDF. Self-serve is down 60%.”
  • “Drop-off service has greatly reduced, it is barely trickling in. One location’s sales are barely covering payroll, the other locations are down but able to pay bills with current income. Pickup/delivery is down overall but not horrible.”
  • “Our sales have dropped from $5,000 to $7,000 a week to now $700.”
  • “For February, the business declined 25%, then (emergency) declaration. The customers shelter in home, so no business traffic at all, so I had no choice (but) to shut down.”
  • “There are less regular customers but more new customers due to the competition limiting their hours.”

How long do you think COVID-19 will directly impact your business? Among survey respondents, 13% believe it will be less 90 days, 50% say more than 90 days and 37% say they don’t know.

“Pray that it ends soon with minimal loss of life,” one respondent added. “We can rebuild our businesses and the economy. We cannot bring back our friends and family that have succumbed to this virus.”

American Coin-Op’s Your Views survey presents an unscientific snapshot of the trade audience’s viewpoints at a particular moment. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Subscribers to American Coin-Op emails are invited to participate anonymously in the industry survey. The entire audience is encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define owner/operator opinions and industry trends.

Check out our Coronavirus Kiosk for the latest pandemic guidance and news, now with links to U.S. Small Business Administration and other programs offering financial relief to businesses impacted by COVID-19.