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Why the Hand Dryer Market is Growing (but is still relatively small)

Posted on 1/16/2013 in Dryers

You see them everywhere (or so it seems).  Xlerator.  Dyson Airblade.  Any one of hundreds of other hand dryers.  Some that work great, some that seem passé  and antiquated.  There is no doubt about it.  Having worked in the hand dryer industry now for 6 years, I've seen the market grow substantially - I'd guess around 5-10% annually, and this in a rough economy.  And yet, I'm still surprised at how small the market is, especially compared to Europe and Asia, where hand dryers have a much greater market penetration.

Why the growth?  Well, the two biggest reasons are 1) the great new technologies that continue to be introduced, and 2) the increasing importance of sustainability and green buildings.  First came the Xlerator in 2001.  Then came the Dyson Airblade in 2007.  Since then, it seems like there are new technology hand dryers getting introduced every few months.  When it took 30 seconds to dry hands, no one wanted them installed.  Now, with many units drying hands thoroughly in less than 15 seconds, what was once a sleepy, boring industry has sprung to life.  Add to that the hygiene technology that many units have (including anti-microbial coatings and HEPA air filtration systems), and hand dryers can be installed in bathrooms that may earlier have been inappropriate for hand dryers.

Where are the biggest increases?   Schools and fast food have always been good hand dryer markets.  It seems like more bars and restaurants have come on board.  Universities and colleges, where there is intense pressure on sustainability and students show a great willingness to try new things have become large markets.  Manufacturing has also seen significant growth (but white collar offices have not).  And anywhere that people congregate (transportation hubs, entertainment venues, etc.) have taken off as well.

And yet, I estimate that less than 5-7% of "Away-From-Home" (AFH) restrooms have hand dryers installed.  With the massive cost savings and the sustainability advantages that hand dryers have, one can only attribute the low market penetration to the prejudices that we as Americans have built up over the years.  I remember diesel motors in the 70's - they were loud and they smelled - and they did very poorly, despite the fact that diesel is cheaper and diesel motors are more efficient than gasoline motors.  Now, today, where Europeans have adopted diesel cars at a high rate, Americans have yet to embrace them despite the fact that the smell and noise (and emissions) have improved to the point that they are the equivalent to gasoline.   Americans seem to remember the old diesel issues more than we are willing to embrace the positive technology advances and benefits that come with them.  Ask anyone with a modern diesel auto, and they will typically rave about the performance.

I strongly advocate that organizations and professionals that prefer paper towels consider using them both.  This way, you can reduce your paper costs by anywhere from 30-70% (depending on the layout of the bathroom and the dryer chosen) while still offering paper towels as an option to people who demand it, regardless of the reason.  Everybody wins.  The facility is cheaper to run, uses less resources and labor, and makes all users happy.  I do see this type of lay out more and more, but I am still surprised by the American's lag behind the Europeans and Asians, where hand dryers command a much higher installation rate.

Of course, feel free to call us to get some consultation on effective strategies!  NetDryers can be reached at 888-629-0685!  There is no sales pressure and you are sure to come away with some different ideas.