The recession has found its next victim: dry cleaning.
Johnson Service Group, owner of Prince Charles's favourite dry cleaner, Jeeves of Belgravia, and the High Street chain Johnsons, set out plans yesterday to close 100 loss-making branches from its 460-strong portfolio of shops.
The group cited a number of possible reasons for a downturn in business including high unemployment, resulting in fewer people wearing suit; cash-strapped customers eking out the weeks between a trip to the cleaners; and the soaring popularity of machine-wash suits.
However, the shops earmarked for closure saw their sales fall 2.7 per cent in the first half of the year. That was after revenues dropped 4.3 per cent last year. Johnson admitted its dry cleaning division will miss expectations for the first half.
Paul Ogle, managing director of its dry cleaning division, will leave the company's board because it is merging its dry cleaning and textile rental business, the biggest part of Johnson's group, to save on branding costs.
The restructuring will tot up to £23.9m.
John Talbot, executive chairman, said: "The restructuring is supported by strong trading and cash generation from the textile rental and facilities management businesses.
We have confidence that our continuing dry cleaning estate will not only be able to withstand the current retail environment but will make a telling contribution to future performance."