CHICAGO — Sales varied by region in July, despite overwhelming sentiment that it’s traditionally one of the weakest revenue-generating months of the year, according to the most recent AmericanCoinOp.com StatShot survey.While dealing with summer business, operators have also been trying to keep their stores running as efficiently as possible, especially in the West.In the South, July sales (compared to 2009) rose a miniscule 0.25%. Sales were up for about 54% of the respondents. A handful of operators saw sales bumps of 10%.July was a struggle for Northeastern operators. Sales were down 3.4%. Some operators say the combination of a slow summer month and rising utility rates is a huge challenge. “It’s hard to pass on the utilities costs,” one Northeastern operator bemoans.Sales were up 1% in the Midwest, despite the fact that several operators said July was one of their slowest months in recent years. On a more positive note, July sales were an improvement on June sales, down 2.4%.In the West, July sales were down 5.9%. Nearly 70% of the Western operators saw sales decline. Summer business continues to be slow in this region. June sales were down 4%.One of the ways to deal with slow summer sales is to run an efficient store. Operators were asked about their utilities cost as a percentage of gross. Western operators fared the best — they are paying 20 percent for utilities. Midwestern operators are paying 22%, while Southern operators are paying 26%. Northeastern operators are paying 28% for utilities as a percentage of gross.For some respondents, summer expenses are a double-barrel problem. In addition to slowly rising costs across the board, summer bills also reflect higher electrical costs due to air conditioning. A handful of respondents also complained that water costs continue to be a headache.How did some of the respondents keep costs down? They turned to more efficient equipment. Some credited new washers and dryers, while others noticed a drop in utilities cost due to the installation of a new water heater.“I have installed a solar water system, and the gas bill went down drastically,” says one Midwestern operator. “It was the best investment I made to the laundry.”AmericanCoinOp.com’s Statshot includes information on sales, wages, costs or 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.