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Laundry Business Changes Because of COVID-19

CHICAGO — The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has changed the laundry industry, from business to operation practices, from safety to sales.

That’s what laundry managers and operators who participated in the most recent American Laundry News Your Views survey indicate.

More than 90% of respondents say their business has changed because of the pandemic. Only 9.7% say it hasn’t.

Not surprisingly, the greatest change has been a drop in business (customers, poundage, revenue, etc.) for many survey takers.

Other changes mentioned include using more personal protective equipment (PPE), more sanitizing in the plant and offering more products.

In fact, 48.3% of respondents say their laundry/linen service has added products to increase business. Many indicate they’ve added reusable barrier products (gowns, lab coats, PPE, etc.). Other products shared by survey takers include masks, ultraviolet (UV) lighting and social distancing mats.

In terms of safety, most respondents indicate their operations have made changes to make things safer for both employees (93.6% “yes” vs. 6.5% “no”) and customers (Yes: 80.7%, No: 12.9%, I don’t know: 6.5%).

The biggest change, according to survey takers, has been plant cleaning (83.3%), followed by mandatory masks (70%), adjusting break times/using more PPE (both 56.7%) and the use of plastic partitions (23.3%).

Other changes for employees respondents share include temperature checks/screenings, more hand sanitizer stations and increased airflow between work stations.

Many of the ways survey takers say they’ve increased employee safety have been adapted to protect customers. These include drivers wearing masks/gloves, maintaining distance and sanitizing trucks. Some respondents also indicate they check that customers’ products remain sealed until delivered.

Regarding office and sales staff, 40% of operators indicate those employees are working in-office, while 20% are working from home. More than 33% say they are using a home-office combination with their office and sales staff.

Finally, as the use of Zoom and other online meeting applications have risen during the pandemic, more than half of survey takers indicate the new “Zoom world” of communication isn’t working for staff, customers and suppliers. Almost 28% say it is working, while 20.7% don’t know.

For respondents who say the new communication methods are working, many share they like the virtual face-to-face option to limit contact as opposed to simple phone calls or e-mails. Survey takers indicating the methods aren't working apparently are choosing to not use the applications.

One operator writes, “We are choosing to do business with vendors who come in person.”

While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.

Subscribers to American Laundry News e-mails are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each quarter. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and identify industry trends.

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