COVID-19 Impact on Sweeping Contractors

The World Sweeping Association developed a survey to see the pandemic’s impact on sweeping contractors so far. Here’s a snapshot of those results. How does your experience align with the information shared by others?  As may be seen by the graph above— and as might be expected— the parking lot sweeping business has been impacted significantly by the virus.  The good news is that nearly 50% of contractors found their business has stayed about the same, at least so far. On the other hand, over 50% of parking lot sweeping contractors have seen a decline, with nearly 30% of respondents having a very significant impact to the bottom line with declines from between 30% and 60%.  it appears the street sweeping business has fared better in the short term,  with over 85% of contractors reporting their business has stayed about the same or lost only about 10%. However, the report of 50% loss of business may become more widespread if a federal aid package is not produced for cities and states. All levels of local and state governments are widely reported as investigating ways to cut their budgets going forward. Most all of these are required by law to balance their budgets each year and with the anticipated reduction in expected tax revenue, it is highly likely that street and roadway sweeping will end up on the chopping block. Although the reports of discarded, potentially infected, masks and gloves were widespread around the US, little traction could be gained on getting customers to increase their sweeping services in order to address the problem. In a time of downturn, such as the pandemic has caused, it has historically been very difficult to keep sweeping at previous levels. Although WSA and WorldSweeper work diligently to require nightly sweeping for the essential retail business community, without a government mandate the effort largely failed. WSA developed and distributed to the media and state agencies a web page designed to educate about the need for nightly sweeping given the widespread issue of gloves and masks being discarded in retail parking lots. In addition, WSA provided its members with a handout showing the importance of nightly sweeping due to the gloves/masks discard issue. The handout underscored the issue and stressed the importance of nightly sweeping given the circumstances. Sadly, It appears that less than 50% of WSA members chose to provide the information to their customers. We speculate that the reason for this is the contractors did not want to “rock the boat.” Rather, they wanted to just keep sweeping at whatever level their customers chose.  It was heartening, though, that when the handout was provided to a contractor’s customer base, over 30% of the time that appears to have resulted in increased sweeps. This underscores the importance of educating customers about an issue. In addition to the third of customers who appeared to have increased sweeps, one would think that the rest who received the handout would appreciate the professionalism of the contractor(s) that provided it to them. Although about 1/3 of contractors appear to have found a way to increase their service base by providing added sanitizing or other services, it seems somewhat surprising that two-thirds have not. Because contractors are on-site on a regularly scheduled basis—and are in the cleaning business—this seems like a natural area of service to offer even if that is just increased sanitization of areas around garbage cans. This would seem to be a service area where, as the pandemic continues, contractors could find a way to expand their service base.  One of the widespread changes that has occurred in the retail industry has been to provide earlier store openings for senior shopping. Not surprisingly, this factor has had little impact on sweeping contractors.   Finally, we are very pleased to report that none of our responding sweeping contractors have had workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to date. We hope this fact continues to be true as the pandemic continues into the future! In addition to our response questions, we encouraged those who filled out the survey to provide any tips they’ve learned about navigating through the changing business climate caused by the pandemic. Feel free to add your own in the comments section of this article. Here’s what they said:
Customer hand-holding is very important, make sure they are pleased with your service
  • Just keep in contact with the property managers. Let them know what extra you can help with. Just keep in mind, their business is going through the same thing you are.
  • Make sure you check weekly with your supermarket customers and/or store managers to make sure they are happy, pleased with your service under COVID-19 conditions, as well as to show your concern for their situation under difficult circumstances.
  • We have been telling customers that the demand for sweeping is increasing due to the pandemic and that if they cancel services we are not sure if we will have the room in our schedule to accommodate them in the future — Liars Poker. However, we are also confident in the values we bring to our customers.
  • Provide education, direction and sanitizing supplies to employees to help them feel comfortable in their environment.
  • Reschedule your workload into fewer sweeping nights with more hours per night.

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