COLUMBUS, Ohio — Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) announced U.S. HVACR average distributor monthly sales declined 6.9 percent in March 2013 versus March 2012 after sales roared out of the gate in 2013 with gains of 19.4 percent in January and 8.4 percent in February.

The percentage change of monthly sales can be volatile and March 2012 was oddly high, said HARDI representatives, so the annual growth number is generally considered the better indicator of market growth rate. The annual growth is now 4.8 percent, down from 6.35 percent during January and February 2013.

“We are very pleased to be sharing additional sales insights with our members this month with the rollout of our segment performance data,” said Talbot Gee, executive vice president and COO, HARDI. “We have an active membership who expressed an interest in the performance of the various segments of our industry. After months of effort, and the support of our membership, we are pleased and excited by the results.

“Our members may not be thrilled with the absolute performance numbers reported this month, but the early reviews of the additional insight into the performance of the controls, HVAC, and refrigeration segment activity is very positive.”

HARDI senior economist Andrew Duguay said the cooler-than-normal spring might have played a role. March 2013 was cooler than normal for every region excluding the West, and March 2012 was warmer than usual. The result was an earlier start for the cooling season in 2012 leading to the relatively better sales.

“The pace of growth this year may have eased,” said Duguay, who remains comfortable with the prospects for the industry. “HARDI members are still in the growth phase of the business cycle. The expansion in home-improvement spending and new construction bodes well for members in the months ahead.”

Four of seven U.S. regions have improved over the past six to eight months, HARDI noted.

“The long-term improvement trend is clearly evident when we look at the sales per employee on a rolling 12-month basis,” said Brian Loftus, market research and benchmarking analyst, HARDI.

“As expected for this time of year, inventories are up across every region compared to last year and the days sales outstanding remained steady.”

Industry participants have commented that half of first quarter sales occur during the third month of the first calendar quarter, so the poor weather this March may have suppressed that pattern. A similar monthly weighting pattern is frequently attributed to the second quarter and the peak months of the cooling equipment season. Based on the cool temperatures this April, that pattern seems likely to be repeated this year.

Publication date: 5/27/2013 

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