Average North American sales for distributors in November 2011 were down 1.7 percent from year-ago levels, the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International reported.

The figures were the first such decline since October 2010, according to the association’s monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies report. The report noted that November 2010 had a record-setting 24 percent growth rate.

Overall, four of HARDI’s eight North American regions, which include Canada, showed increases. Sales at U.S.-based distributors fell 1.7 percent.

“The November sales report is showing the effects that the approaching expiration of last year’s $1,500 tax credit had on the HVAC market,” said HARDI economist Andrew Duguay. “The comfortable same month year-over-year sales growth that was experienced through much of 2011 diminished in November. At the same time, it can be viewed as somewhat encouraging that same month sales were down only 1.7 percent on average even though the real cost to consumers of many HVAC services is much more this year than last when factoring in tax credits. December should also be a challenging month for year-over-year comparisons given December 2010 was the last month of the full tax credit.” 

HARDI Executive Vice President and COO Talbot Gee said overall, the numbers were not bad.

“Keeping up with last year’s fourth quarter tax credit-infused sales growth was never a realistic expectation and one we worked in September to dispel,” Gee said. “But our members’ ability to keep November’s comparison to low single digits is a testament to how effectively HARDI distributors are adjusting to a repair-based economy.”