Laundry and drycleaning sectors 'positively dynamic'

23 January 2024

Things are looking up in Italy as the economy improves and businesses regain their footing, reports Eugenen Gerden

The Italian laundry and drycleaning sectors show a positive dynamic this year thanks to the ever-rising demand for the industry’s services coupled with the improving economic situation in Italy. Historically, the Italian textile care market has been one of the largest in the EU both in value and volume terms. The market has been steadily growing since the second half of the 2010s although its growth rates have significantly slowed down in recent years, which became mainly due to the pandemic (and its particular catastrophic consequences for Italy) as well as high inflation rates in the country.

A distinctive feature of the Italian textile care sector is its traditionally higher concentration in the northern regions of the country, the level of which development has been traditionally higher those in Southern Italy although in recent years such difference has become less perceptible. This is also thanks to the recovery of the tourism sector, which contributes to the growth of demand for the textile care services from the Italian hospitality market.

In general, the Italian textile care market has always been of interest to the major global players, which have traditionally considered it as a priority for growth in the European region.

For example, according to Alessandro Rolli, managing director of Kannegiesser Italy, 2023 was very successful for the company in the Italian market, which is reflected by the launch of some important new products and an increase in market share. Rolli says: “Kannegiesser Italy will achieve on FY 2023 a very good turnover. This is by far the best year ever. We have commissioned a brand new laundry close to the French border fully equipped with the latest Kannegiesser technology available for the hospitality sector. We are in the middle of the installation phase 1 of a ‘MEGA factory’ capable of processing up to 35,000 garments a day. We have increased our market share to more than 23% by being focused on reliable, smart and effective solutions.”

Rolli expects demand for laundry and drycleaning services will certainly grow in Italy next year with the biggest growth in the hospitality sector. “On the hospital sector we can’t see the same trend and room for a growth. The rise of automation responds to the need to reduce costs and optimise processes to improve competitiveness. As opposed to conventional equipment, logistics robots ensure maximum throughput and reliability 24/7 if required. This is going to be the new focus for investments. Safety and ergonomics at the working place are still the drivers on the business model for the year to come.”

In the meantime, other global majors spoke about the big growth prospects for the Italian textile care sector and its current potential. According to them, that could be explained by several important aspects.

Matteo Gerosa, general manager Jensen Italia, comments: “The Italian market is living its golden age thanks to the combination of different factors. First, Italy is strongly confirming his position as luxury worldwide leader as a destination. In fact, during 2023 the hospitality market has achieved the opening of 24 new 5 stars structures with rising interest from international brands.

“The luxury market has almost 700 structures in Italy, with a capillary presence in the well-known touristic locations.

“Of course, the laundry market is linked by this trend with direct effect over the processes, where increased dedicated items for each customer, high investments in linen but also a much higher rental cost are adding value to laundry rental services and in general to hospitality segment itself.”

According to Gerosa, from a wider perspective, after the hard period of costs increasing: “The market reacted creating a large network of sharing within local entities which, in addition to the application of monthly energy fees linked to variable indices to the end user customers, has slowly obtained and then consolidated much better rental conditions, giving now possibilities to reinvest profits in new plants in order to be ready for the coming seasons’ challenges.”

He adds that in such conditions the company has been able to consolidate its position, enhancing its partnerships with local partners and providing important investment solutions to all players, who really want to move forward through innovation and automation of processes.

Regarding future prospects, Gerosa expects a further consolidation of the market, as, according to him, “too much segmentation in small structures is no longer competitive for a mature market, and we expect, (as is currently happening within the hotel sector), the arrival of international players that will offer the Italian market the final step to reaching the level of the major EU markets”.

At the same time, the Italian market has been one of priority for growth for another German major Kreussler Textile Care, which in recent years has been able to significantly strengthen its positions in the country.

As Thomas Zeck, commercial director of Kreussler says, in spite of still very high raw material as well as energy prices as well as the continuing war in Ukraine (with all its effects on various European markets), the company was still able to not only secure all its existing customers, but also win several new ones.

Zeck adds: “As we have predicted in August 2022, many companies did not survive the developments in the market concerning prices, product and energy availability, and still also after effects of the corona pandemic. What we see now is a development that mid-sized companies are closing down while there are more smaller laundries covering smaller regions, without the need for complicated logistics and therefore also reduced energy spendings in comparison to larger laundries with a pickup/delivery service.

“Thanks to our partner network throughout Italy, it’s fortunately easy for us to cater to their needs. The major challenges for these companies are the still very high energy and raw material prices in Italy; we hope there will soon be a certain normalisation in this area, as this will help to calm the market situation.”

In general, most believe that high raw materials prices will continue to be one of the major challenges for market players in Italy, will force them to accelerate the introduction of various innovations and to launch new products. That will allow them to remain competitive in such a highly competitive market like Italy. In addition, a further strengthening of the image of a reliable company is also important and is considered as one of recipes of success lovcally.

As for activity in drycleaning and wetcleaning, Dr Marco Niccolini of Renzacci Spa which manufatures wetcleaning and drycleaning machines explains how the situation since Covid struck has developed. “There was a consistent number of closures in 2021- 22. The traditional drycleaning shops that survived have begun to recover, on both turnover and profit. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all, Some lost ground which has been hard but for those who equipped with new machines with alternative solvents to perc, it is happening. However, the industry will recover.”

He says an interesting situation is beginning to develop with reference to coin-op laundries and drycleaning. “A good number of coin-ops are adding drycleaning and ironing/finishing to their businesses. Why? Because the coin-op owners see a drycleaning shop nearby closing and perceive an opportunity. These shops tend to be older businesses with perc machines. Drycleaning with perc cannot be operated as a coin-op accessaible to the public; you have to be a professional and have certification to do it and undergo mandatory training.

“However, new solvents are not toxic so operators can provide a new service. And customers don’t want to use toxic chemicals to clean their clothes. Biodegradable and bio compatible are the new watchwords. This can now be offered to customers who demand environmentally friendly alternatives. This has helped as customers demand this and it has helped to revive the sector – a lot.”

As for getting money to invest to or re-invest, Niccolini says: “At this moment banks are a bit ‘tied up’. However, if you fall into the right category, which includes unemployed people and women, you can get government loans and grants to develop new companies and buy new environmentally friendly machines. There are actually big possibilities for credit at the moment.” So, not a bad place for start-ups in Italy.

Vittorio Maglione, country manager Italia, Alliance Laundry Systems, comments: “We have consolidated our position as a reliable partner with a quality product and after-sales service. In the textile sector the versatility of our machines allows us to satisfy both washes and specific treatments in the field of fashion.”

Maglione adds that the drycleaning industry in Italy is in a stalemate; as there is a change of generation of entrepreneurs. “In the coming years we will certainly have a more lively market and ready for new challenges and investments, with our wetcleaning system ‘Softwash’ we are ready for new market challenges.”

Finally, for Miele Professional, the biggest hopes are also related to the hospitality sector in Italy. This is confirmed by Egizia Maria Felice, head of marketing at Miele Professional Italy, who says: “Miele in Italy continues to empower professionals in multiple sectors with the some of the most advanced laundry technology available in the market. In 2023, we supported hoteliers at all levels in achieving the highest standards of hygiene and efficiency in textile care despite the new and more stringent standards expected by their guests postpandemic.”

According to Maria Felice, it is currently difficult to estimate further prospects of the Italian textile care sector due to the current volatility of the business environment. Maria Felice continues: “The market is challenging these days and its trends more difficult to predict than before.

“Our clients, like us, are facing increased costs and, in turn, increasingly higher expectations from their clients. Despite these challenges, we are optimistic in believing that good laundry is destined to grow.

“We are seeing, for example, a trend in bringing the laundry back in house in multiple sectors, which is more sustainable from a financial and environmental points of view. If this trend continues to grow as we hope in hospitality and beyond, we will work hand-in-hand with our clients to develop the best laundry solutions tailored to their needs.”

ALESSANDRO ROLLI, managing director, Kannegiesser Italy
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