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Many Laundry Owners Say Business Activity on Rise: Survey

Large share believes it’s ‘better positioned’ for post-pandemic future

CHICAGO — COVID-19 immunizations are nearing 50% of the U.S. population as the nation presses forward to leave the months-long pandemic behind. Workers are being called back to their offices, schools are planning to reopen to in-person classes, and stadiums are welcoming larger and larger crowds. Things seem to be getting back to normal.

But what do you see coming? Are there better days ahead in a post-pandemic world, or are you braced for an uncertain future?

Through this quarter’s unscientific Your Views survey, American Coin-Op asked its audience how it felt about the recovery and what could be expected moving forward.

Roughly 70% of respondents describe their current business activity level as “booming” (20.8%) or on “a definite uptick” (50.0%). Another 8.3% say it’s comparable to where it was in 2020.

Some 17% say their activity is “lagging behind where it’s been previously” and the remaining 4.2% report being “in a scary decline.”

Looking ahead to the second half of 2021, 41.7% expect there to be “increased business going into a brighter 2022” and 25% expect “greater growth and success.” One-quarter of respondents expect “slightly better days,” and the remaining 8.3% expect “more of the same.”

What actions did you take to adapt your laundry business to the changing conditions in 2020-21? Here are some responses from those surveyed:

  • “We adapted to current regulations and also what we felt was responsible policies for the health of our employees, their families and our customers. At different times, this included masking, limiting the number (of people) in the building, removing TVs and chairs, and closing off folding areas to social distance. Sanitizing and cleaning got stepped up, also.”
  • “Upgrading to daylight lamps as opposed to cool white stopped the complaints about being dirty.”
  • “Staffing is my biggest issue. We had a great business but we don’t have anyone to do the work, so I’ve had to close my store on weekends … and I’ve had to cut hours to 7 to 7 during the week.”
  • “Added ozone and raised prices.”
  • “Ditch quarters and focus on touchless and cashless phone-based payments. Also trying to optimize unattended operation.”

When asked if they are “better positioned for the future” now than in early 2020, 37.5% said “Absolutely – we’ve learned valuable lessons and put them to work” and 41.7% said “Yes – we know now what works and what doesn’t.”

Roughly 17% are unsure (“I can’t predict the future”), and the remaining 4.2% said “No – we’re simply in survival mode.”

Did your laundry business adopt any new strategies or programs due to the pandemic that you’ll continue to use because they have worked so well?

For many respondents, increased sanitization efforts will continue, as will looking at converting coin-based operations to cashless. One respondent said he/she is doing away with the “keep everyone happy business model”: “COVID rules changed operations. Those who chose to violate our policies got banned and it turns out that we have a better environment and are doing well. … It is now ‘behave or be gone.’ The result is better, happier customers who understand the hard-line changes.”

A healthy share of respondents don’t plan to keep any changes made due to the pandemic and will be “back to normal.”

American Coin-Op asked respondents what lessons they had learned—as laundry operator and as small-business owner—as a result of the pandemic. Here is a sampling of responses:

  • “We never made masks mandatory. We allowed our customers to decide. Who would (have) thought that adults can decide what’s best for them?”
  • “Thankful that we were ruled to be (an) essential service. It could have set us way back if we were in the same group as restaurants and others.”
  • “Respect your customers and staff. Accept nothing less from them, also. Those who can’t behave ruin the laundry experience for everyone else. Not everyone is your customer. We may be implementing a membership model similar to a health club.”
  • “I was shocked to discover that people would stop washing altogether, which is what happened for six months.”
  • “Government can be an enemy, but not always.”
  • “As a nation, we do better when we help those that need it. Stimulus checks had a real impact that was positive. We also need universal healthcare and higher wages.”

American Coin-Op’s Your Views survey presents an unscientific snapshot of the trade audience’s viewpoints. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.

Subscribers to American Coin-Op emails are invited to participate anonymously in the survey. To better define owner/operator opinions and industry trends, the entire trade audience is encouraged to take part.