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Dry cleaners are facing a hanger shortage

October 29, 2021, 5:30 PM UTC

We’ve all got them. Dozens of wire hangers sitting idly in our closet from previous trips to the dry cleaner that we really don’t know what to do with. Now the dry cleaning industry is politely asking that we bring them back.

There’s a hanger shortage in some parts of the country, as people return en masse to get their shirts starched and pants pressed. And some businesses are turning to their customers for help.

Many dry cleaners didn’t survive the pandemic, as business vanished overnight and for a long period. (Most dry cleaners lost between 83% and 92% of their sales.) For the stores that did make it, the return of customers has been just as sudden. The abrupt increase in demand has put an unprecedented strain on the supply chain—and it’s something both cleaners and suppliers have never had to face before.

“I’ve been here 33 years, and I’ve…never seen it where you just can’t get the product. It’s not a price situation. You can’t get the product,” Peter Blake, executive director of the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA), tells trade journal American Dry Cleaner.

It’s not just wire hangers that are in short supply. The “strut” hangers that use a cardboard tube for the bottom rung, which are typically used for pants, are also hard to find.

The hanger shortage is being exacerbated by higher shipping costs and shipping delays due to overcrowded ports. And the high demand is escalating prices. Rick Bhula, owner of several dry cleaners in Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times the price for a box of 500 hangers used to be $20 to $25. Today it’s more than twice that amount.

That’s forcing some dry cleaners to raise prices by 4% to 5%.  

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