For years, hand dryers were the underdogs of the industry, dominated by the paper and towel dispensers that solidified their market share with never-failing reliability.
Customers traditionally didn’t like [hand dyers] so owners didn’t use them as much,” says Lance LaFave, president of Newton Distributing, Newton, Mass. “Being sensitive to the end user, they weren’t used in as many places.”
But about a decade ago things changed for hand dryers; technological advances greatly improved their ability to dry hands quickly. In addition, with the general public becoming more environmentally conscious, the demand for hand dryers increased, LaFave says.
“We are finding that existing markets are expanding and there are new markets,” LaFave says.
Those markets, say hand dryer purveyors, include commercial offices, health care facilities, government buildings and hospitality venues such as restaurants and nightclubs.
Commercial and Government
Class A office buildings, defined by the Building Owners and Managers Association International as premier spaces, traditionally only used paper towels. But, according to LaFave, the Class A office building market is clamoring for hand dryers because end users have begun to trust the devices to dry their hands consistently.
“People want to be comfortable (at work) and they want to have fixtures there that they like,” LaFave says. “So historically, with the slow hand dryer, people didn’t like them and they would find it annoying since they go to the restroom three or four times a day, 20 times a week.”
In the past, landlords were sensitive to tenants’ objections to hand dryers, which tended to be slow and unable to completely dry hands. The advent of faster, more reliable devices during the last decade has removed traditional objections to hand dryers in offices.
“We have done significant installations in Class A office space over the last five years and it is going really well,” LaFave says. “They (now) work, lower your carbon footprint and they are good for the environment so the objections are gone and now they are being used more.”
Public sector entities such as local municipalities, states and the federal government are also demanding hand dryers because of the devices’ green qualities.
“They are all about being more energy efficient, saving the trees and the environment so the government is very much on board,” says Anthony DiCicco, owner of ProDryers in Livonia, Mich.
The public sector poses some challenges to hand dryer vendors, however. It tends to pay slower than private industries, and the decision makers and facility operators are typically not the same person or persons. This causes longer lead times when compared to private businesses to sell the hand dryers.
“But it’s a good market,” DiCicco says. “You have to have a lot of money to be in the government business because they are all going to operate on net 30 or net 60 so you may need financial backing…or it will take you under pretty quick.”