March Sales Decline 6.9 Percent
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Average monthly sales for HVACR distributors in the United States declined 6.9 percent in March 2013 as compared to March 2012. HARDI released these numbers on May 2 as part of its monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies (TRENDS) report.
According to HARDI, these numbers are only mildly disappointing after gains of 19.4 percent in January and 8.4 percent in February as the average sales in the prior year were unusually strong.
The percentage change of monthly sales can be volatile and HARDI reports that March 2012 was oddly high and indicated that the annual growth number is generally considered the better indicator of market growth rate. The annual growth is now 4.8 percent, down from the 6.35 percent during January and February 2013.
“An unseasonably cool weather-related anomaly is a likely contributing factor,” said Andrew Duguay, senior economist, ITR Economics.
After some investigation, Duguay reported that March 2013 was cooler than normal for every region excluding the West, and March 2012 was warmer than usual. The result, he pointed out, was an earlier start for the cooling season in 2012 leading to the relatively better sales than those in 2013.
“The pace of growth this year may have eased, but HARDI members are still in the growth phase of the business cycle,” said Duguay. “The expansion in home improvement spending and new construction bodes well for members in the months ahead.”
Brian Loftus, market research and benchmarking analyst at HARDI explained that four of the seven regions have improved over the past six to eight months.
“The longer term improvement trend is clearly evident when we look at the sales per employee on a rolling 12-month basis,” he said. “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.
Along with the first peek at the cooling season demand, HARDI members gained additional market insight in this month’s report.
“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 are very positive.”
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