Cleaning Up: From Homes to Clothes, Franchising Has Got the Goods

Franchising can provide an opportunity for you to clean up. Whether it's inside your home or the clothes on your body, there are many choices.

Busy Americans are driving explosive growth in the cleaning industry. With little time of their own to clean, U.S. consumers are spending more than $9 billion a year on residential cleaning-a figure expected to grow at a rate of more than 20 percent a year.

Consider these stats from Merry Maids:

* Currently, there are 22,000 U.S. cleaning service providers, with the category projected to grow by 20 percent within the next 10 to 15 years.

* Keeping a clean home is more and more difficult for today's homeowners because families are overscheduled and homes are much larger.

- Americans work nine weeks more than their European peers.

- Women spend less than seven hours per week cleaning their homes (vs. women in the 1960s who cleaned an average of 27 hours a week).

- Homes built in 2004 averaged 2,400 sq. ft. while 1973 new homes averaged 1,660 sq. ft.

- Nineteen percent of homes built in 2003 had more than 3,000 sq. ft. compared with 7 percent in 1986.

* Home cleaning industry sales are near $24 billion.

Consequently, cleaning and maid services are among the fastest-growing industries in North America, and opportunities to own a cleaning business are available worldwide. Commercial cleaning services are always in demand too, and companies and services that specialize in cleaning-related repair and restoration services are attractive options for those considering a home-based, low-investment business.

"Having someone else clean the house has become commonplace for middle class American households. An entire generation of young people has grown up without watching mom or dad clean the house," says Don Slifer, vice president of market development for Merry Maids. "So the market for services can only continue to grow. And because trust is such an important element in the buying decision, the known brands will continue to dominate the market. There's no reason to wait to buy a quality house cleaning franchise."

And it's not just homes.
Ken Levinson was working as an accountant in the 1980s when he noticed his co-workers swarming the company's parking lot at lunch each day to buy from a truck. That's when the light bulb went off. Levinson realized there were many other products and services that could be brought to workplaces in a similar fashion-for example, shirts, pants, dresses, and shoes. After some research, Levinson started his own pick-up and system. He founded Pressed4Time in 1987 and today there are more than 180 U.S. franchises operating.

Pressed4Time franchisees set up pick-up and drop-off schedules with local businesses, delivering and other items to local dry cleaners where they are cleaned, mended, or altered. They can also take care of shoes, handbags, and luggage that may need repairs. The company says its franchisees serve more than 50,000 customers every week.

As a whole, cleaning services are generally immune to economic swings and are not affected by seasonality. So if you're looking to invest in a service-oriented business with potential for growth, it's an area where you could clean up.

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