The National Association of Electrical Distributors said that 78.2% of respondents to its most recent Quarterly Sales Change Expectation forecast sales growth for the first quarter of 2006, and 21.8% expect sales to rise by 10% or more. Another 20% project flat or negative sales during this period.

Higher sales in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 were reported by 85.8% of surveyed distributors and 49.2% said they anticipated sales growth above 10%. In the third quarter survey, a record 89.9% of responding electrical distributors said their sales were growing for the quarter.

The South held the most positive view regarding sales growth both for the fourth quarter of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006. Positive projections for the first quarter 2006 were reported by 89.7% of responding electrical distributors in the South, by 78.9% in the West, 76.3% in the Midwest, and 52.4% in the Northeast.

The largest and smallest electrical distributors were most optimistic in their expectations for fourth quarter sales growth. The NAED survey found that those most frequently reporting fourth quarter sales growth were distributors with five to nine employees (90.9%), those with 50 or more employees (86.7%), and those with 30-49 employees (84.6%). In contrast, among companies with 20-29 employees, only 79.2% estimated higher sales.