The American Supply Association’s monthly Pulse sales report shows respondents enjoyed a sales increase of 26.6% for March 2021 vs. March 2020.

On a year-to-date basis through the end of March, half of the Pulse respondents reported sales growth of 9.2%. On a trailing 12-month basis, respondents reported average sales growth of 3.5%, and a median of 4.1%.

Half of the respondents reported TTM changes between -0.8% to +9.5% for sales growth for the 12 months through the end of March, 2021 vs. 2020. Inventory rose 10.0% for March 2021 vs. March 2020. The median three-months average days sales outstanding remained steady at 40 days for March.

On a trailing 12-month basis, respondents reported an average sales decline from 0.9% to 0.2% in February, but a sharp incline to 3.5% occurred in March compared to the 2020 data.

Inventories rose 6.8% for February 2021 compared to February 2020, and in March an increase of 9.6% was reported. The median three-months days sales outstanding was 40 days in February, and it rose to 40.3 days in March of 2021. A meager 26% of respondents reported decreasing gross margin percentages for March 2021 vs. March 2020.

“It is worth noting that March 2021 results reflect a full month of robust performance compared to March 2020 (a month in which much of the country was essentially shut down for the last two weeks),” said Greg Manns, vice president of ASA business intelligence partner Industry Insights, which produces the Pulse sales report. “This is reflected in the strong sales growth figures reported by respondents in this month's results. Also, the YTD and TTM figures for much of the year will be impacted throughout 2021 as we continue to compare against a year that had multiple weeks if not months of closures or partial closures.”

“The U.S. is showing signs of a strong recovery where we may be able to see our economy at pre-pandemic levels sooner than expected,” said ASA Business Intelligence Analyst Ayesha Salman. “Economic experts are now beginning to project an upside forecast for economic recovery. Our members have already started experiencing the positive impact of a good economy on their businesses, and we hope to see more of this through the year.”

Economic indicators

GDP: The Fed has revised its GDP expectations for the year, and they are improving from 4.5% to between 6.0% and 6.5%.This is in line with some of the global GDP forecasts from the IMF (6.0%). The expectation is that this growth will be front-loaded with most of the activity taking place in the first half of the year with some tapering off at the end.

Total wholesale sales rose 6.4% for February, while inventories grew 2.0%.Housing figures continue to remain strong as we head into spring, with March housing starts jumping significantly.

Unemployment rates have been declining and seemed to have leveled out. The unemployment rate has continued to decline from its peak of 14.7% in April 2020 to a level of around 6% in late 2020 into the early months of 2021. The weekly initial claims for unemployment have followed this trend as well — leaping from a 4-week average of 214,000 in March to more than 4 million for April 2020, but has dropped to around 800,000 to 900,000 for the end the year and heading towards the low 700,000 range for March 2021.

Industrial PVF

ASA members doing business in the industrial PVF space reported a growth of 2.8% in March compared to a year ago. Trailing 12-month sales for ASA industrial PVF distributors decreased 6.4%. Average inventories rose by 8.7%, while median sales grew by 3.2%, which also highlights the large gap in ending inventories among the respondents. The average days sales outstanding for that sector stood at 51.9.

55.6% of ASA industrial PVF distributors responding to the survey reported the total number of full-time-equivalent employees dipped compared to the same time period a year ago, while 33.3% of industrial PVF distributors reported a lowering of gross margin percentage as of March 31, 2021 compared to the same reporting period a year ago.

COVID19 Fades: It was only a few months ago that the pandemic ranked as the major risk factor for the financial and business community, but it has now fallen behind inflation, fiscal policy and regulation as concerns.

The fact is that about 40% of the population has been vaccinated — more than 50% of adults and more than 80% of seniors. However, there are growing concerns about outbreaks in foreign countries and the impact that this might have on imports, especially from South America, India, and parts of Europe.

A detailed Pulse report is available through the MyASA Portal at