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Managers’ 2021 Outlooks Trend Toward Positive

Recent survey shows laundry companies hopeful despite 2020 challenges

CHICAGO — After all that has happened in 2020, it would only be natural for folks to be a bit leery of the coming year.

Especially in laundry and linen services.

COVID-19, recession, social unrest … these factors, and more, have negatively affected much of the industry this year.

Still, respondents to the recent American Laundry News Your Views survey are trending toward a somewhat positive outlook for 2021.

Almost 45% of managers surveyed indicate that their laundry business will be good in the coming year, while 31.5% say it will be “neutral.”

More than 11% say their business will be excellent in 2021.

Only 9.3% of respondents say 2021 doesn’t look good for their laundry operation, with 3.7% saying it will be poor.

When asked, “What is your reason for your operation’s 2021 outlook,” here are some of the answers given:

  • We learned some lessons and will be able to adjust quicker than before.
  • Negative today, but should improve.
  • After a steep decline in volumes in early 2020, things have started to rebound.
  • We’ve been hit hard, and it will take time to get back to where we were.
  • Business will never get back the days lost ... our best (and few) have gotten out of the industry to better-paying jobs.
  • The public has to be willing to go to large meetings, otherwise, the industry will be badly affected. Everyone likes face-to-face meetings, not Zoom.
  • Our industry is somewhat recession-proof but not pandemic-proof.
  • Healthcare will never go away. We will just have to be flexible.
  • Customer mix.
  • Large scale and broad customer base reduces risks.
  • The unknown of COVID and the economy.
  • Good in the sense that our location and trade area is within a state that is pro-business and believes shutting everything down is more harmful than implementing Draconian guidelines, even if a % of its population will not follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
  • Don’t have another option.

Whether a laundry has a positive outlook for the coming year or is simply hoping to survive, it makes sense, then, that laundry manager respondents will be focusing on keeping and increasing customers in 2021.

Nearly 41% of respondents say their company’s No. 1 priority in the coming year is to “attract more business,” while almost 30% indicate they’ll be working to “maintain business.”

Other No. 1 goals indicated are “retain/improve staff” (11.1%), “increase productivity” (9.3%) and “upgrade equipment” (3.7%).

Of the 5.7% who say they have “other” No. 1 goals for 2021, they are:

  • Enhance customer service.
  • Sell the business to major chain; they seem to think the business will grow. 
  • Decrease labor costs.

And what do respondents think their chances are to achieve these No. 1 goals?

More than 48% say they have a “good chance,” and nearly 15% indicate they “will accomplish it, without a doubt.”

Almost 30% give their laundry operation a 50-50 chance, and just 7.4% say there’s a “slim chance” the company will achieve its goal.

Of course, COVID-19 remains top of mind, with 51.9% indicating the pandemic will most affect the industry in 2021.

Almost 17% say the economy will impact laundries the most, followed by the results of the 2020 election (13.0%), customer confidence (5.6%) and international relations (1.9%).

Just over 11% percent respond that other factors will affect the industry, including:

  • Inflation.
  • Government shutdown. 
  • Uneducated people in key positions in our industry continue to drag it down to a point where “who cares.”
  • Our governor.

 “Everyone will need to rethink normal,” writes one respondent. “Things will change and the industry will need to change to stay in line with the ‘new normal.’”

Another writes: “Changes in processes and adding inventory (iso gowns) are costly, and COVID brought significant change. The realization that we cannot rely on a 6,000-mile supply chain has resulted in an opportunity for reusable products, which is beneficial in the long-run but costly and disruptive in the short term.”

And a final thought from a respondent: “Looks like a tough year ahead, but we will be fine if government leaves us alone.”

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.