ASA’s Pulse sales report shows member distributor respondents enjoyed an average sales growth of 4.4% and a median growth of 6% during the fourth quarter of 2020, while distributor respondents doing business primarily in the industrial pipe, valves and fittings channel continued to report declines.

Total ASA distributor respondents reported a median 1.4% sales growth for the full year 2020 vs. 2019. Inventory levels rose 4.9% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

The median three-month average says sales outstanding dropped to 39 days in the fourth quarter. ASA business intelligence partner Industry Insights notes the DSO drop is encouraging, “as earlier in the year there were concerns that receivables were starting to increase.”

More than 71% of respondents reported flat or increasing gross margin percentages for the fourth quarter 2020 vs. the same time frame in 2019. Nearly half of the Pulse survey respondents (49%) reported company YTD profit before tax increased compared to last year, while 30% reported a decline.

The Pulse sales reports shows a mixed bag for Q4 staffing levels among respondents with a fairly equal split of 38% reporting having more full-time-equivalent employees compared to a year ago, 25% about the same and 38% reporting their staffing levels have decreased compared to a year ago.

Industrial PVF sector reports declines

ASA members with a primary emphasis in the industrial PVF sector reported an average sales decline of 2.2% and a median decline of 4.4% during the Q4 2020. Industrial PVF respondents reported a median sales decline of 8% for the full year vs. 2019.

On the industrial PVF side, inventory levels decreased 3% in the fourth quarter compared to the same time period a year earlier. The median three-month average DSO for industrial PVF respondents was 43 days.

Economic indicators

The real GDP figure rebounded in the third quarter with a 33.5% increase coming off a historical Q2 31.4% decline. Total wholesale sales experienced modest declines in most of the third quarter, but were essentially flat for most of the fourth quarter. Inventories contracted between 2% for October and November. Industry Insights notes economic activity in the manufacturing sector reported continued expansion in each of the months between October and December.

The full, detailed Pulse Q4 sales report is an exclusive benefit for ASA members only and can be accessed through the MyASA portal at