4Q13 Distribution Survey: Fourth-Quarter Sales Better than Expected

Growth led by gains in residential construction during the quarter.
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Sales growth in the fourth quarter to the fourth-quarter 2013 MDM-Baird Distribution Survey was better than anticipated for most respondents. On average, overall growth was 3.7 percent, higher than the 2.4 percent forecast in the third-quarter survey.

PVF – water & sewer companies reported revenue gains of 13.6 percent, the strongest in the survey. HVAC companies and plumbing also reported solid revenue growth of 12.8 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, boosted by improvements in residential construction spending.

Two sectors reported revenue declines in the third quarter, led by mechanical and power transmission companies (down 1.2 percent). The roofing sector also saw revenue decline on average 0.3 percent, the only residential category to not benefit from improvements in the segment.

While sales were up, gross margins were down overall, falling 10 basis points on average.

For the first quarter, respondents expect an average revenue increase of 4.3 percent. Of all segments, PVF – water & sewer had the highest expectations for the first quarter. Respondents in the segment forecast average growth of 12.7 percent for the quarter.

More than a third of respondents (35 percent) overall expect to increase inventory levels in the first quarter, with only 18 percent expecting to decrease levels. The remaining respondents (47 percent) expect to maintain current levels. During the fourth quarter, 32 percent decreased inventory levels, while 25 percent increased inventory, in line with expectations from the third-quarter survey.

Thank you to all who participated in this quarter’s survey!

The quarterly survey with Robert W. Baird & Co. included more than 500 respondents in distribution (70 percent of respondents) and manufacturing in diverse sectors. The survey's goal is to gauge business trends and the outlook for the industry.

Read more about the results of the fourth-quarter 2013 survey, including results by sub-sector, in the Jan. 25, 2014, issue of MDM Premium.

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