COLUMBUS, Ohio — The average sales growth for reporting HVACR distributor members increased by 5.4 percent in January 2014, according to the HARDI monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies (TRENDS) report. The report showed that the annualized growth is now at 6.1 percent and back to the 5- to 6-percent range where it had resided for most of 2013.

Although 22 billing days were measured for both January 2014 and 2013, this January's weather was disruptive to multiple businesses in several regions.

"The 5.4 percent gain could be considered healthy because of the challenging weather that much of the country experienced during January of 2014 and it is being compared to a strong 19.4 percent growth in the prior year," said Brian Loftus, HARDI market research and benchmarking analyst. "National distributor Grainger estimated the extreme cold and snow trimmed their January same store sales by 3 percent.”

HARDI explained that cold weather is not the only reason for mid-single-digit growth.

“The cold weather is partially to blame for the mild 0.7 percent improvement in January 2014 housing starts compared to January 2013,” said Andrew Duguay, HARDI senior economist. “The annual growth rate has been declining since March of 2013 and is expected to continue to ease beyond the winter. Retail sales also appear to be moving into a slower growth pattern.”

The days sales outstanding (DSO), a measure of how quickly customers pay their bills, increased considerably in January after a pause in December and is back above 50 again.

“The DSO has peaked near 54 days the past two years," said Loftus. "Members have told us the increases since the fall are consistent with the normal seasonal pattern."

HARDI members do not receive financial compensation in exchange for their monthly sales data and can discontinue their participation without prior notice or penalty. Participation is voluntary, and the depth of market coverage varies from region to region. An independent entity collects and compiles the data that can include products not directly associated with the HVACR industry.