Recent conversations with industry people naturally revolved
around the sorry state of our economy in general and construction-related
markets especially. Here are some particulars that are on the minds of our
industry’s distributors and manufacturers:1.
Banks aren’t the only ones reeling
from the credit crunch. Many distributors are in the middle of a distressing supply
chain in which projects are shut down or delayed because the owner or GC can’t
gain financing, which cuts off pay to subs, who in turn stiff their suppliers,
who then have trouble paying their vendors. It’s a reminder that the business
of wholesale-distribution is not only about warehousing products, they play a
banking role as well. Except nobody is looking to bail them out.
The PVF sector of the industry was
going great until last fall, which one distributor described to me “is when we
hit a wall going 100 mph.”
An interesting perspective was offered
by a PVF manufacturer, who told me that all the talk of globalization tends to
focus on imports, but his company and many cohorts benefited greatly from
export sales to China and other foreign markets. With China’s economy as much
in the doldrums as anywhere else, this is a double whammy.
Many manufacturers feel awfully queasy
about the economic woes of Wolseley and its Ferguson behemoth. Some have as
much as 20-25% of their sales in that one big basket, and if the unthinkable
were to happen, those companies might have trouble surviving themselves.
Otherwise, there was a lot of talk about the weather.