BRUSSELS (Brussels Morning) – Laundries and dry cleaners are experiencing a cost explosion. Not only are energy prices soaring, soaps and detergents are also becoming more expensive. “Charging everything on to the customer is not easy,” says Bart Rolies of the Ganshory laundry.
Many companies are having a hard time due to the aftermath of corona and rising energy prices. But the situation is particularly dire in the dry cleaning and laundry sector, says the Federation of Belgian Textile Care. “The sector has already suffered greatly from the corona virus. It was especially tough for the catering laundries, which clean the textiles for restaurants, hotels and banquet halls,” says Philip Rebry, president of the Federation.
“But the laundries that mainly work for hospitals were not spared either. While it was busy in the hospitals due to corona, many departments remained closed and a lot of disposable clothing was used.” The dry cleaners felt it too: since there were no parties and receptions for a long time, fewer party dresses and costumes had to be cleaned.
“Our companies had just started the new year with cautious optimism and hoped to overcome the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic this year,” said Rebry.
That hope has been dashed by the enormous cost increases. “The prices of raw materials have risen, but the most dramatic increase is the gas price. Our sector tries to work as sustainably as possible, so many companies have switched from heating oil to gas. But gas prices are now going through the roof. One of our companies had a gas bill for February that was the same as for the whole of 2021.”
The dry cleaning and laundry sector is a major consumer of energy. “Washing, ironing and drying are very energy intensive,” says Rebry. “Greenhouse horticulture is therefore not the only sector that is in trouble.”
Rebry fears that this crisis will hit the sector even harder than the corona pandemic. “That can have serious consequences for employment. But the survival of some companies is also at risk.”
The Federation therefore makes an urgent appeal to the government to lower energy prices. “The reduction in VAT doesn’t really help us, because VAT is often deducted, it’s just a drop in the ocean. The European agreement to cap the gas price must be reached as soon as possible.”
Brussels has almost a hundred laundries, laundromats and dry cleaners. Rebry: “These are mostly smaller family businesses that often work partly or entirely for the private market.”
Ganshory, a laundry and dry cleaning company in Ganshoren, confirms that they are also going through difficult times. “Because we have a varied clientele, we got through the corona period reasonably well,” says manager Bart Rolies. “We also wash for the catering industry. That came to a standstill during corona, but we were able to partly compensate for that by the extra work for rest homes, where the laundry could not be done for a while by the relatives of the elderly.”
However, since the beginning of this year, Ganshory has seen costs rise rapidly. Rolies: “Our machines are heated by a central steam boiler that runs on gas. The machines use a lot of electricity for turning and spinning. Those costs have increased. Water is also fifteen to twenty percent more expensive. In addition, the costs of soap and detergents have also risen fifteen to twenty percent and, according to the supplier, a new increase is on the way. Then there are our packaging materials, paper and plastic, which have also become more expensive.”
Ganshory and the other laundries and dry cleaners are at a loss. Rolies: “It is not easy to pass on everything to the customer. At the beginning of this year there was already a price increase of five percent due to inflation. Can we now raise prices again?”
“Companies either have to work at a loss or pass the increased costs on to the customer. Both scenarios are not favourable,” says Federation President Rebry. “Laundries that work with large contracts cannot simply pass on the prices. Those who work for private individuals may be able to do this, but run the risk that the customer will have their clothes washed or dry cleaned less often.”