QUESTION 2: The economy has been shrinking since just after our last State of The Industry in 2007, and drycleaning was hit hard. Can you put the downturn’s effect on the industry in perspective vs. other businesses and past “shocks?”
DAVE SILLIMAN: Everyone with whom I do business—restaurants, mechanics, even my dentist—has experienced a drop in sales. People eat out less, have their cars serviced less, only have emergency dental work, and wear their clothes an extra time.
JOHN TIPPS: All businesses have been hurt; people are watching what they spend much more closely. Past “shocks” such as polyester and casual workwear are things none of us like, but things we have to ride out.
BILL FISHER: The drycleaner was already suffering before the economy tanked; the industry has been oversaturated. It’s exactly what we saw in the mid-’70s—there were too many plants for the garments available.
DAVID COTTER: I would rate it as the worst era for the industry since the polyester surge of the early ’70s. Unemployment has hit us hard, and hit the industries that still tend to dress up hard, like banking.
BARRY GERSHENSON: As disposable income keeps diminishing, today’s drycleaner is learning out of necessity to be leaner and more efficient. The test is to maintain these efficiencies when the economy improves.
Next: When will the industry bounce back, and what will it look like when it does?
The panelists: David Cotter, executive director of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA); Bill Fisher, CEO of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI); Barry Gershenson, executive director of Leading Cleaners Internationale (LCI); “Dryclean” Dave Silliman, operator of Uptowne Cleaners in Phoenix, Ariz.; and John Tipps, independent consultant and former operator of Clean Concepts Inc.