CHICAGO — Self-service laundry owners once again experienced a drop in sales for the month of August compared to the same month last year, according to a recent AmericanCoinOp.com StatShot survey.Laundry owners in the West experienced the biggest drop in sales of the four regions polled, with a 12.5% drop in sales for August 2009 compared to August 2008, while storeowners in the South followed with a 5.1% decrease. The Midwest reported a 3.6% drop and the Northeast reported a 2.1% drop.“We have been operating at below break-even for the past 6-8 months. Our lease continues to rise,” replied one beleaguered operator in the West. “We are considering various options including closing shop.”Operators in other regions echoed these sentiments. “Vacancy rate in apartments is very high due to tenants being evicted because they cannot pay their rent, no doubt due to high unemployment,” said one storeowner in the South. “Many customers are using the same cloths 2-3 times before dumping them into the hamper for the laundry.”It seems that many operators may be trying to recoup the loss by raising dryer prices, as survey respondents in all of the regions polled report offering less dryer time for 25 cents in August 2009 than they did in the same month last year.Laundry owners in the West, where reported August sales were the worst, say they’ve changed dryer prices from 25 cents for 7 minutes in August 2008 to 25 cents for 6.4 minutes in August 2009, or a 9% drop in minutes. The Midwest changed dryer prices from 25 cents for 7.8 minutes to 25 cents for 7.3 minutes, or a 6% drop in minutes. The South changed dryer prices from 25 cents for 6.5 minutes to 25 cents for 6.3 minutes, or a 3% drop in minutes. The Northeast changed dryer prices from 25 cents for 6.8 minutes to 25 cents for 6.79 minutes, or a 1% drop in minutes.(Editor’s note: Some respondents set dryer prices in a different fashion than the industry-standard 25 cents per number of minutes. We’ve included all of the figures in the totals, and are displaying them this way for an apples-to-apples comparison.)Some survey respondents have reported that the change in dryer pricing has helped somewhat. “I have switched some stores to cycle pricing — $1.25 for 35 minutes — [and] improved dryer revenue by 10%,” said one operator in the South.Not everyone is fairing so well, however. “We increased our prices last October, and it has really been a struggle. We saw our income drop a lot,” said an operator in the Midwest. “So is our drop due to the times or our price increase? Probably a little of both. Any suggestions?”AmericanCoinOp.com’s StatShot includes information on sales, wages, costs and other financial data based on anonymous survey information provided by industry owners and operators. Subscribers to American Coin-Op’s Wire e-mails are invited to participate in these unscientific surveys, which are conducted online via a partner website, on a regular basis. Readers are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define industry trends.Click here and follow the menu instructions to sign up for the free e-mail service.