Dry Cleaning Businesses Reflect the Economy

If you want to gauge the health of your local economy, you can look at all of the charts and graphs that economists produce or you can drop by your local dry cleaners.

As the recession wore on, some dry cleaning shops said they saw clothing stack up month after month. People were not picking up the clothes they dropped off because they couldn't afford to pay the bills. But sometime late this spring, pressures eased a little.

The Miami Herald said office layoffs hit dry cleaners hard. People didn't need to wear their suits.

The Herald's story also said:

"Lenny Weiss, director of Internal Operations for the National Cleaners Association, said most of the nation's dry cleaners are seeing similar losses.

" 'Any time the economy has a down swing, the dry cleaning business is affected because it's a luxury service,' Weiss said. 'At this point in time, the dry cleaning business is a very difficult one to be in.'

"Nationally, there were 36,000 cleaners in 2006, according to IBIS World, an industry and market research company based in Santa Monica, Calif. The most recent numbers for 2010 are 33,250.

" 'This is the worst I've seen,' said Michael Sternshein, owner of Cricket Cleaners in Palm Beach and president of the National Cleaners Association. Sternshein has been in the dry cleaning business for the past 40 years.

"The industry has been in decline for several years, notably since 2008, said Toon Van Beek, a senior analyst at IBIS. 'With profit margins so tight and competition so high, it's tough. A lot of these companies have had to close doors.' "

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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