Average sales for HARDI distributor members were down 12.2 percent in December, the second consecutive month of decline as 2011 ended on a down note for the group, officials said.

Annual growth for members of the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International fell below 5 percent, according to figures released in its monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies (TRENDS) Report. It showed declines in all seven U.S. regions, but each ended 2011 overall on a positive note.

In Canada, sales were up in December, but 2011 was still a down year.

“December was a difficult month for distributors," said HARDI economist Andrew Duguay. “Average sales for the month were 12.2 percent lower than December of 2010. 80 percent of distributors reported that their sales in December were lower than last year. The clear cause of the poor year-over-year comparisons is the $1,500 energy efficiency tax credit expiration at the end of last December, causing a boost in sales as people rushed to buy units and claim the credit. December weather was also seasonably mild throughout the majority of the U.S., which may have caused a minor, short-term shifting of consumer habits in heating equipment purchases."