Signs continue to paint a brighter business picture.

Numbers can be quite revealing - and educational.

For instance, since 2006 nearly a quarter-billion people in the United States have been affected by a federally declared weather-related disaster. Think about that - four of every five people.

Did you know there are 293 different ways to make change for one dollar?

Numbers tell this ardent Pittsburgh Pirates fan it has been 19 seasons since the team last had a record north of .500. At this point, why not make it 20 this year?

Numbers also forecast economic and business trends. Last month, I reported on the positive buzz coming out of the 2012 AHR Expo in Chicago. The trade show set a number of records, including a new benchmark for total attendees (50,000). The increased hustle and bustle led to many feeling confident about what 2012 will bring.

Since AHR, several other optimism indicators have surfaced. National Kitchen and Bath Association recently released its Kitchen & Bath Report, which reveals more optimism despite some downward-trending data.

The report shows total showroom visits were down 3% from the previous quarter, yet 70% of kitchen and bath dealers are optimistic going into 2012. Kitchen remodel sales volume was down 20% from the previous quarter and down nearly 50% from last year, however 73% of dealers anticipate an increase in the first quarter of 2012.

Kitchen and bath revenue in total was down 22% from the previous quarter and down 48% from last year. However, 68% of dealers are optimistic heading into the beginning of 2012.

HARDI also had the down-up scenario going in its TRENDS Report, which shows average distributor sales for December 2011 were down 12.2% from record growth in December 2010. Nevertheless, each of the seven HARDI U.S. regions ended 2011 in the positive column. All eight HARDI regions reported higher inventory levels than the same time last year.

There’s also good news if you are a wholesaler that stocks or is thinking of stocking more sustainable products. According to a Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study by McGraw-Hill Construction, green homes comprised 17% of the overall construction market in 2011, a number expected to grow to between 29% and 38% of the market by 2016.         

Omni’s Spring Meeting 2012 in Orlando featured no shortage of positive news on the numbers front with the organization’s Business Conditions Survey painting another positive scene.

Compared with the last six months of 2010, 57% of member respondents reported an increase in total sales, with 45% of respondents seeing an increase in remodeling business and 39% reporting commercial business upticks. There was an equal split on the inventory front with 38% reporting an increase and 38% seeing inventories remaining the same.

Respondents to Omni’s survey are equally optimistic about the first half of 2012 with 59% of respondents expecting total sales to increase (higher percentages among Northeast and Southeast region respondents), while only 10% predict sales to decrease. Remodeling and commercial business increases again are expected with 48% of respondents predicting remodeling bumps and 45% commercial increases.

Omni President Bob Hoff revealed sales for the total membership rose 12.5% in 2011 from $760 million in 2010 to a projected $855 million in 2011 - much better news than the drop from $972 million to $715 million that occurred from 2008 to 2009.

“There has been a lot of retooling and reshaping the last few years,” Hoff said at the conference’s welcome breakfast. “The independent wholesaler is quick to react. There is still cautious optimism, but from what I am hearing, there is a lot of excitement and we’re prepared to meet that excitement with a lot of zeal.”

Wholesalers I spoke with at Omni echoed Hoff’s retooling and reshaping comments - positioning themselves for success via adjustments made during the downturn. Some examples of that include holding bathroom retrofit clinics at a local college, increasing presence in business categories less affected by the downturn and even hiring top industry talent during tough times to bring in fresh ideas.

“The changes we made during the bad times, we’re going to be able to capitalize on the good times,” Robertson Supply Vice President Mark Michels told me.

Based on numbers, those good times are getting closer and closer once again.

Links