Dry cleaning shops on or near U.S. Air Force bases are getting a taste of
what their peers around army bases went through three years ago. In both cases,
a new work uniform was introduced that could not be dry cleaned or starched.
Strictly wash and wear. Troops have been asking for this since the late 1940s.
Now they have it, and hundreds of dry cleaners are out of business, or
operating on a lot less revenue.
the air force introduced ABU (Airman Battle Uniform). Three years earlier, the
army introduced the new ACU (Army Combat Uniform). Most of the cleaning shops
on base lost 30-50 percent of their business when their military customers
switched to the new uniforms. Shops near bases lost less, depending on how many
of their customers were military. Between the army and air force, you have over
800,000 people wearing uniforms. Most wear the ACU or BDU to work, at least
some of the time. While the "Class A" (jacket, shirt and tie) uniforms still
get dry cleaned, the cleaners around army and air force bases have now lost
over $5 million a week in revenue. That's over a quarter billion bucks a year.
gets worse. Since 2003, with the invasion of Iraq, and increased operations in
Afghanistan, the army and air force have seen about twenty percent of their
troops away from their home bases. This leaves all the retail establishments
back home hurting. Most tighten their belts and hang on until the troops
return. But the cleaning and starching of combat uniforms has been around for
over sixty years. Generations of dry cleaning shop owners have made a living
from it. Suddenly, most of it is gone, even with the troops still in residence.
cleaners are scrambling to develop new cleaning services that will enhance the
uniforms, and not rely on starch or dry cleaning (both of which mess up the
stealthiness coating and permanent press features), and bring back some of the
lost revenue. They might succeed, but for the moment, the troops are enjoying
the reduction in workload, and living expenses.