CHICAGO — All types of businesses faced challenges in 2009, and self-service laundries were no exception, according to American Coin-Op’s most recent Wire survey.More than half of survey respondents said business was worse in 2009 than 2008. Thirty-four percent said business was “somewhat worse in 2009,” and 22% said business was “much worse in 2009.” Twenty-six percent said business was “somewhat better in 2009,” while 10% said it was “much better” in 2009. Eight percent said business was the same in 2009 as 2008.Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents said business in 2009 was “about what I expected,” and 37% said business was “worse than I expected.” On a bright note, 22% said business was “better than I expected.” Only 2% didn’t know what to expect this year.NEGATIVE FACTORSOperators were asked to name the factors responsible for this year’s reduction in business. Fewer customer visits to the laundry (59%); rising expenses (50%); and a declining customer base (55.6%) were the three most-cited reasons. Others factors that influenced this year’s business decline included a drop in extra-service income (29.6%) and competition cutting into business (26%).A BRIGHT LIGHTFor those who experienced a business increase in 2009, the factors most cited for the bump in business are growth in the customer base (57%); price increases (33.3%); and better marketing (26.7%). Seventeen percent credit new equipment for the business increase, while the same number say new services boosted business.One-third (33%) of respondents raised washer/and or dryer prices in 2009.MAKING THE GRADEDespite tough times, most owners said they did a good job running their stores. Fifty-three percent said they deserved a “B” grade for store management this year, and 26% gave themselves an “A.” Sixteen percent said they did “C” work, and only 2% gave themselves a “D.” Three percent weren’t sure of their grade.While the American Coin-Op Wire survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.Subscribers to American Coin-Op’s Wire e-mails — distributed weekly — are invited to participate in an industry survey each month. The survey is conducted online via a partner website. Each survey is developed so it can be completed in 10 minutes or less. Readers are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and industry trends.Click here and follow the menu instructions to sign up for the free e-mail service.