CHICAGO — The laundry/linen services industry is doing more business today than it was last year at this time.
That’s what respondents indicate on a recent American Laundry News Your Views survey about the state of business in the laundry/linen services industry.
When asked, “Is your laundry/linen service generating more sales today than at this time last year?,” more than 25% indicate that sales are up “much more” today than at this time in 2017.
The majority of respondents (63.2%) say sales are up “slightly more.”
“Based on my training through the Association for Linen Management, I can say boldly that textile care in the U.S. is doing well,” writes a respondent.
Only about 10% of those who took the survey say sales now are the same as last year at this time, and no respondents indicate sales are lower than a year ago.
That begs the question, why have laundry/linen service sales gone up?
Almost 70% of survey respondents say that their customer bases have increased, while almost 53% attribute the growth to increased prices. Other factors include boosted marketing efforts, additional services/profit centers, decreased competition (each at more than 10%) and a decrease in costs/expenses (5.3%).
Obviously, the reasons for business growth align with what operators say was the best thing to happen to their businesses in 2018.
“Understanding the ineffectiveness in prior thinking toward growing and retaining business,” a respondent writes. “Having fun doing what we do gave us a swagger back.”
“A larger customer base,” another writes, while one operator shares, “Some large new accounts have been acquired.”
And some survey takers shine a spotlight on equipment purchases in the past year.
“We purchased new equipment,” a respondent writes, “one 400-pound washer, two towel folders.”
“A new CBW wash system,” adds another.
However, while most respondents say business is up over last year, there are always challenges in business—some even caused by a good economy.
One of the biggest challenges? Labor.
“With the economy improving, it is getting extremely hard to find production workers and even managers that want to work in the industry,” one writes. “We are a dying breed.”
“Textile care is facing the shortage of manpower due to low unemployment rate,” agrees another respondent. “This is because the majority of the people working in the industry were not actually interested in the job but only to satisfy their needs.”
“Hiring will become more difficult and wages will continue to increase,” writes another survey taker.
One respondent does offer advice on the issue: “Work to keep your current employees. Yes, that means share the wealth. The grass is not greener on the other side of the road.”
Also, one respondent indicates that booming economies don’t always translate for healthcare laundries.
“The healthcare sector, specifically hospitals, are in cost-cutting mode,” they write, “and even though costs for labor are rising fast, price increases can’t be passed on right now.”
Operators whose businesses didn’t increase place the blame on several factors, from higher labor and material costs to consolidation.
When asked about business expectations for 2019, almost 75% of respondents say, “I’m confident my business will keep improving.” Just over 25% think their business will remain the same, and no one indicates they have concerns about declining business.
Survey takers have several reasons to think their business will continue to increase in 2019.
“We have a strong sales force, and if the economy continues the way it is now, I would expect more of the same,” a respondent writes.
Another shares, “We have great owners, a great staff, have retooled our plant in the last four years. Everything points to continued success.”
“I have improved on my managerial and administrative techniques in handling both human and material resources, and this translated to increase in productivity even with little or scarce resources,” adds another respondent.
Laundry operators who see business remaining the same indicate that this is because they have no room for expansion or the laundry is operating at capacity.
One survey taker predicts, “I expect the economy to slow down.”
However, as laundry/linen services continue to experience growth, one respondent shares this piece of advice: “Be kind to others. There is plenty of business to go around.”
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.