One in Six Dry Cleaners Have Closed During COVID, More Facing Similar Fate Due to Work From Home

Female owner reading receipt by clothes rail in laundry
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Few businesses have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than dry cleaners, and it might be a long time before the industry bounces back.

See: How to Keep Supporting Your Local Small Businesses During COVID-19
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One in six dry cleaners have already gone out of business nationwide since the pandemic began, according to a recent report from San Francisco’s KGO-TV, which cited data from the National Cleaners Association. Some industry officials believe that figure will only keep rising in the coming months.

It’s not hard to figure out why the dry cleaning industry has been devastated by COVID-19. With so many employees forced to work from home during the pandemic — and with so many other businesses either closing or cutting back their operations — demand for dry-cleaning services has seen a huge decline.

In November, Bloomberg, citing NCA estimates, reported that the U.S. dry cleaning industry was probably booking only half the $7 billion in revenue it did before the pandemic. More than 90% of owners weren’t taking paychecks during the pandemic, and roughly half were paying workers out of their savings, Bloomberg reported.

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Even when the pandemic subsides, a shift in work culture could mean that many employees will keep working from home, contributing to continued weak demand for dry cleaners.

NBC News, citing data from a Pew Research Center survey, recently reported that more than half of employees want to keep working from home even after the coronavirus outbreak ends. This has led many American corporations to reconsider their policies governing office spaces, with many adopting a hybrid model in which employees will shift between working at home and working at company offices.

This does not bode well for the dry cleaning industry. A representative from the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute told NBC News that up to 30% of dry cleaners could close within the next 18 months.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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