If you are into numbers and statistics, then HARDI’s annual conference in early December in New Orleans was the place to be.

The HVACR distributor national trade association rolled out its new market intelligence pillar aimed at positioning HARDI to become the voice of both customers and suppliers, it noted.

During the opening-day breakfast at the Pulse-themed conference, which drew a record of more than 1,700 attendees (third year in a row with record attendance) with more than 500 distributor attendees and 321 first-time attendees (more than 100 distributor employees), HARDI presented a plethora of data from its studies that brings the HVACR channel into better focus.

Among the highlights was pegging the total market size at about $70 billion with various studies ranging from $68.8 billion to $72.7 billion with a breakdown estimate at 59% commercial and 41% residential. The estimated HVACR wholesale channel size is between $45 and $46 billion with 64% of total sales done through wholesale distribution (24% manufacturers sales branches and direct; 9% retail/building supplies stores).

During a panel discussion at the opening breakfast, Deepa Raghaven from Wells Fargo Securities noted that 2019 was predicted to end “flatish” but with a little better finish in the second half. In terms of 2020, she is predicting mid-single-digit growth on the HAVAR front. HARDI CEO Talbot Gee and Market Intelligence Team Leader Dan Fisher also provided optimistic takes on what 2020 holds. “I think 2020 could end up being a better year than 2019,” Raghaven added.

Also of keen interest was an appearance by PHCC-National Association Executive Vice President Michael Copp, who presented as part of HARDI’s Voice of the Customer initiative to better understand the plumbing contractor’s impact on HVACR sales in current times and in the future.

Copp also was armed with research PHCC has done among its membership. When asking PHCC survey respondents what type of work they do, 93% noted plumbing, followed by heating (54%), air-conditioning (39%), radiant (25%) and solar (9%).

On the topic of fields of work, residential and commercial service work tied at 57% with residential remodeling at 50% and commercial remodeling right behind at 46%.

PHCC members also responded that 70.3% of their purchases are made through wholesale-distributors and 55.5% of their total sales are made through their No. 1 supplier. On the HVAC side, of total company sales 10 years ago, 35.2% were of the HVAC ilk, rising to 40.6% five years ago and 46.6% current day.

Copp also presented data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows there were 480,600 plumbing jobs back in 2016, with positive growth expected for the next 10 years. “Employment of plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is projected to grow 16% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations,” the BLS report noted.

Along those same lines, the employment of HVAC technicians is expected to grow 15% during the same 10-year period, with the number of jobs back in 2016 at 332,900, according to BLS data.

Copp also cited an Associated Builders and Contractors article from 2017 that said by the end of 2020 more than 50% of businesses entering the construction industry will be minority- or female-owned.

The PHCC survey also asked respondents what is the one thing you wished your wholesaler suppliers did better? Highlights included providing points programs with rewards; support repair parts; deliveries by 7 a.m., training in the off-season; doing a better job of updating contractors with trends and new technology; communication; product training and being a better partner — thinking outside the box to better help contractors rather than just be order takers.

cfm Distributors is the winner of HARDI’s 2019 advocacy pillar award; while Team Air is the recipient of the benchmarking pillar award. RSD is the talent pillar award-winner, while Mingledorff’s and Johnstone Supply (The Ware Group) are the winners of HARDI’s Mexico awards.

HARDI’s 2020 conference heads to the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, Dec. 5-8.