Dry cleaning businesses ‘washed up’ after turnover loss in the pandemic

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The trade’s governing body has lifted the lid on the human cost of the crisis on one of the high street’s most established industries.

Almost 40 percent, or around 2,000 of the 4,400 outlets across the country, have closed or are likely to cease trading – leading to a loss of 15,000 jobs.

The lack of commuters travelling to city centre offices has devastated the traditional shirt laundering market, leaving many businesses unable to afford their rents. And the change in working habits means pre-Covid levels of trade are unlikely to return, making businesses unviable for many owners.

Ron Davidson, president of the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers, said: “The industry has been savagely hit by the pandemic.

“We were allowed to stay open as we were judged an essential service but effectively there weren’t any customers. I would say the industry has probably lost almost half (£95million) of its turnover.

“The best estimate we have is that 25 to 40 percent of outlets will close within the year,” he said.

The change in working habits and the lack of a need for formal office wear has had a huge impact. Mr Davidson added: “I think I have worn a suit three times this year. And who is wearing a tie these days? The market has moved away.

“There are some success stories. People who can do domestic laundry, pillow cases, sheets and towels have increased trade.

“Wedding dresses have come back as some people are getting married again but formal wear is down so much.

“The shirt market has gone down by 70 percent in most cases.

“One 69-year-old owner put in £50,000 of his own money to keep his business afloat.

“I have had to advise people that it is probably best to close if they cannot pay their rent or staff.”

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