Dry cleaners see massive drop in business as people work from home

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COLUMBIA - In Boone County, dry cleaners are an essential business, so the doors at Robinson’s Cleaners never closed, but business has been anything but normal. 

Kit Price, who owns the cleaning service, said business has dropped by 70% since things started to shut down in late March. 

As more people are working from home, fewer people are wearing professional clothes every day. 

"Everyone is sitting at home, and they don't have pants on," Price said. "They're not wearing those to work. Our bread and butter is people coming in and bringing in their professional clothes." 

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal and laundry services industry has lost 53.5% of its workers nationwide since February. 

Price said she has talked with other dry cleaners across Missouri who have seen business drop by as much as 90%. She said she considers herself lucky because some parts of her business have remained constant.

"I know it's affected my business and affected the revenue, but I feel like I'm pretty lucky," she said. "We are very diversified. We have laundromats and stuff, so there's a lot of revenue streams that we're able to continue to have even through this time."

Robinson’s Cleaners also has contracts with the Columbia Police Department and Jefferson City Police Department to clean their uniforms. Before COVID-19, Price said officers would come into one of her stores when they were off duty. That changed when the virus made its way to mid-Missouri. 

"Around the 23rd of March until the end of April, every day, seven days a week we cleaned every uniform," she said. 

Price said she has not had to let many workers go, but she has cut back on the hours her stores are open. She said even as more places begin to reopen, she expects her business to lag a bit and not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until fall.