Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) reported that North American HVACR average distributor sales for January 2012 were up 6.2 percent.
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HARDI’s Monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies (TRENDS) Report showed growth in six of seven U.S. regions, three in double digits. Canadian distributors kicked off January with a slight decline, but did improve its annual growth rate.
U.S. sales were up 6.3 percent for the month.
Perhaps as a sign of optimism for 2012, all eight HARDI regions reported higher inventory levels than the same time last year.
HARDI economist Andrew Duguay warned against reading too much into January’s numbers though. “Distributor sales recovered moderately in January,” he said. “On average, sales improved 6.2 percent from last January, but the actual results were quite varied, with just over one-third of distributors showing a negative January comparison to last year.”
Diverse strategies and inventory positions on R-22 refrigerant likely played a role in January’s sale disparities in the wake of confusing and delayed regulatory guidance issued on Jan. 20 reducing R-22 refrigerant production and importation by nearly half of last year’s levels. Many distributors also cited the mild weather as a drag on heating sales.
Days Sales Outstanding (a measure of how quickly customers pay their bills) crept up for the fifth time in six months, crossing the 50-day barrier. Distributor productivity reflected by sales per employee backtracked for the seventh consecutive month down 6 percent from last month and over 35 percent from its July, 2011 peak.
“We just completed a very optimistic 2012 HVACR Market Forecast, but I fear uncertainties caused by refrigerant and equipment regulation are stymieing our growth potential,” said HARDI Executive Vice President and COO Talbot Gee. “Any questions on what you can buy, stock, and sell will obviously slow sales and marketing efforts, and make business owners lock down when they usually would be expanding and being aggressive.
“Interestingly we continue to see extremely strong ductless unit sales despite some of these winter headwinds, and continued movement away from mid-level efficiencies to either 13 SEER or 16 SEER.”
HARDI also announced its 2012 HVACR Market and Unitary Forecast is now available to member and non-member companies with details at www.hardinet.org/2012forecast.