Overall, 2019 proved to be a positive year of growth for the PHCP-PVF industry, based on results and responses from this year’s Supply House Times Premier 150 distributor survey. The annual survey is conducted by BNP Media Market Research. BNP Media is the parent company of Supply House Times, along with other Plumbing Group publications, Plumbing & Mechanical and PM Engineer (pme).
Each year, the Premier 150 survey ranks the top 150 PHCP-PVF industry distributors based on each company’s reported sales from the previous fiscal year. This list is based off of fiscal year 2019. Company sales numbers are never disclosed. Estimates are used in cases where companies do not complete the survey. Editors make these estimates based on information made available through various channels and industry partners such as the American Supply Association (ASA), PHCP-PVF buying groups, regional associations, as well as through Supply House Times’ digital outlets.
This year’s survey was conducted throughout an unprecedented time. The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy is affecting industries and businesses worldwide. The following information dives into results and respondent comments that differ from years past, but represent how quickly things have changed, the uncertainty many are feeling and some hope for a positive remainder of 2020.
THE BIG PICTURE
Last year, 94% of respondents said they had increased sales over fiscal year 2018, while 4% reported sales staying the same and only 2% noted having a decrease in sales. This year, things have changed a bit as only 84% of companies responding based on 2019 sales said they had an increase. 6% say that sales stayed the same and 10% report a decrease in sales.
Reported expectations for the upcoming sales year are based on predictions from both respondents who completed the survey prior to the COIVD-19 outbreak and those who completed the survey into late March.
According to last year’s survey, in 2019, 93% of participating companies said they expect sales to increase over the coming year, while this year, only 74% are anticipating sales increases. Roughly 15% of the 2020 respondents said sales will stay the same, 7% expect a decrease and 3% are unsure. Last year, 7% of respondents expected sales to stay the same while none said they foresee decreasing sales.
The pandemic proves to be the greatest factor at play when it comes to these reported changes and expectations for 2020.
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This annual PHCP survey, conducted by Supply House Times, ranks the top plumbing, heating, cooling and piping wholesalers and distributors by their reported sales for the past year. The 2019 Premier 150 Sales Trends are as follows:
Sales Trends for 2019 Premier 150
(Year-To-Year Comparison And Projection)
*Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding
Source: Supply House Times/ BNP Media Market Research 2020
For more information please view the image in the slideshow.
2020 PREDICTIONS AND COVID-19 UNCERTAINTY
Respondents presented mixed reports when it comes to growth and sales expectations throughout 2020; comments on the future outlook likely depend on the date of completing the survey. /p>
Gary Cedrone, director of showroom operations at Republic Plumbing Supply out of Norwood, Massachusetts, summarized the current situation well. “The 2020 fiscal year began strong; optimism was high, the economy was solid and unemployment was low. Then, the unforeseen happened and coronavirus seemed to stop everything in its tracks. We now just hope to survive with minimum damage going forward,” he said.
“Columbia Specialty experienced explosive growth in 2018 in several sectors including commercial construction, industrial MRO and OEM markets,” noted Michael Taylor, president and CEO of Long Beach, California-based Columbia Specialty, an industrial PVF distributor.
Uncertainty about the future was a common note among other respondents as well. Randy Wool, president of Wool Plumbing Supply from Sunrise, Florida said, “Fiscal 2019 was strong, but 2020 will be a challenge due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, no one knows how the rest of the year will play out based on the market conditions in late March.”
CMC Supply’s Vice President of Operations Suzann Bowman noted, “We had a strong 2019, but we are expecting some losses in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. The extent of the loss will depend upon how quickly we can get back to normal in the U.S. and how the supply chain is affected worldwide.”
Although the PHCP-PVF supply chain is facing challenges and uncertainty, some respondents explained that there is hope for a strong end to 2020.
Consistent Premier 150 survey respondent, Don Maloney, president of Coburn Supply, explained that sales are declining because of the pandemic, but the Beaumont, Texas based company is prepared for an economic downturn and hopes for a strong fourth quarter in 2020.
Seattle-based Pacific Plumbing Supply noted that business has continued to be busy. “Our corner of the world is very busy between residential and commercial development,” said Dan Sherman, vice president of marketing. “We hope to continue to enhance service to our existing customers and to reach out to new customers, even through this this time,” he added.
POSITIVE 2019 REPORTS
The Premier 150 survey was open to distributors in early 2020, so many respondents had the chance to comment on 2019 success before the impacts of COVID-19 began to take over.
Maury Williams, director of communications at Winsupply said, “In 2019, Winsupply achieved its sixth consecutive record year in sales; a remarkable performance by our local companies. We project continued growth in the coming year fueled by our relentless focus on growth, meeting and exceeding the expectations of our customers, driving efficiencies into our operations and continuous investment in our people, technology and infrastructure.”
Another highly ranked distributor, R.E. Michel Co. reported, “2019 was a strong year of growth with many strong add on and replacement sales,” said Alex Beecher, director of marketing for the Glen Burnie, Maryland-based company.
“We experienced a very strong first two quarters in 2019, averaging more than a 10% sales increase from the previous year. Although the last half of 2019 slowed down, we still managed to have a 5% increase in overall sales, leading to our best year to date,” noted Howard Frankel, president of Central Plumbing Specialties/Grande Central Showrooms in Yonkers, New York.
Other distributors had things to celebrate as well.
“Our company celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2019,” said Jack Bell, president and CEO of Masters Supply out of Louisville, Kentucky. “We expanded with two new branches and obtained 40% growth by our largest customer,” he added.
Etna Supply Group’s Director of Finance, Derek Price gave some specifics to explain the company’s 2019 growth. “We experienced 14% sales growth in 2019 and 19% sales growth so far in 2020, both steady increases above the previous years,” he said.
More good news came from Mountainland Supply. “Last year provided our company with many opportunities to build upon our market share, product offerings and customer relationships,” said CEO Brent Anderson. “We are anticipating another robust year for sales growth in the west inter-mountain region.”
Similarly, Wilson Teachey, president of Hubbard Pipe and Supply, out of Fayetteville, North Carolina said, “We were truly blessed in 2019. It was a terrific year for our sales teams and a remarkable year of growth for our operations team.”
Positive sales patterns stretched coast-to-coast; both Van Nuys, California-based Hirsch Pipe & Supply Co. and Green Art Plumbing Supply from Freeport, New York reported and overall strong fiscal year in 2019.
Others mentioned that although they had a strong overall year, 2019 ended slower than anticipated. “It was a very strong year overall but fourth quarter ended up disappointing,” noted Jeffrey Nierman, president of Independent Pipe and Supply out of Canton, Massachusetts.
“In early 2019, sales were growing at double-digit rates, but later in the year we saw a leveling off throughout the Colorado market,” said Kevin O’Brien, CFO at George T. Sanders Co.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Aside from the recent pandemic crisis, respondents pointed out several other factors that affected 2019 results and are important to consider for the 2020 outlook.
“Continued softness in oil and gas demand will affect sales in the industrial PVF supply chain throughout 2020,” said Ty Westfield, president of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Industrial Piping Specialists.
Ameripie Supply out of Dallas, Texas explained that tariffs have affected pipe prices which in turn has imposed decreased revenue margins for PHCP-PVF distributors on some products. “Last year was difficult for steel pipe distributors. Prices for key pipe SKUs continued to fall precipitously since the time of the tariff scare,” said Blair Franklin, president and CEO.
Sioux Center, Iowa-based Plumbing and Heating Wholesales explained that the wet weather throughout the Midwest caused a slowdown in sales through the latter part of 2019, proving weather and climate continue to be unpredictable factors in the supply chain.
“2019 had both a mild summer and winter which caused sales growth to climb slower than anticipated,” said Dave McIlwaine, president of HVAC Distributors, a Mount Joy Pennsylvania-based company.
Some distributors noted that slow moving residential projects in their areas led to slower growth over 2019. Michael Taylor, president and CEO of Columbia Specialty Co. out of Long Beach, California, explained “Fiscal 2019 did not meet our expectations due to major building projects being delayed and pushed into 2020.”
The PHCP-PVF Industry is likely in for a challenging remainder of 2020. As essential businesses, the drive to remain positive, push through and adapt must outweigh the negativity surrounding the current economic climate. Many resources are available to distributors. The Supply House Times website (supplyht.com) provides constant COVID-19 updates and survey results to keep the industry informed. The American Supply Association website (ASA.net) also has a coronavirus resource center with government resource information and recordings of economic webinars.
Glenn Fuller, CEO at Texas Plumbing Supply out of Houston, notes that industry associations are vital through the current economic uncertainty. “COVID-19 has changed the way we all do business,” he says. “Our owner membership of AD and membership of ASA has proven, once again the importance of belonging to industry groups. These groups help you in good times and tough times. The relationships established and built through these organizations have been so valuable. Being able to reach out and counsel each other gives peace of mind during a crisis.”
To view more Premier 150 breakout charts, visit SupplyHT.com.