This time last year the buzz was about the Mayan calendar and its prediction that the end of the world was nigh. So much for ancient predictions. Still, everything wasn’t warm and fuzzy in 2013 either. Never mind all the political craziness, the U.S. economy squeaked along in one of the most drawn-out recoveries this editor has ever seen.
Last January, as this industry prepared to travel to Dallas for the 65th annual AHR (Air-conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration) Expo, show organizers predicted a record-breaker in terms of attendance and asked exhibitors to predict how 2013 looked to them.
For those of you who were there, you know the Dallas show DID break a record. Optimism abounded among those exhibitors who believed 2013 would be in recovery mode and foresaw their sales increasing by nearly a third. Those predictions didn’t quite pan out, though shipment figures provided by our friends at AHRI did trend upwards and there were many happy faces on the manufacturing side of the table.
In fact, manufacturing across the country continues to grow. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), “manufacturing production rose 0.6% in November and 2.9% year-over-year. The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) predicts that industrial production will accelerate to 3.1 percent in 2014 and perhaps 4.1 percent in 2015 (tinyurl.com/prqanod).”
From the street level, there were areas of the U.S. that did see some growth — although many areas remained depressed with no real rebound in sight. And 2013 marked the fifth consecutive year of less-than-spectacular performance of the mechanical systems industry.
Just call me Mr. Grinch.
Be that as it may, the management team at AHR Expo conducted a fresh survey this year of exhibitors trekking eastward to the Big Apple and the Jacob Javits Center at the end of this month. Once again, it seems that optimism prevails. You can read our report on the results of that survey at bitly.com/2014AHRSurvey.
In a nutshell, 98% of the exhibitors who answered the survey conveyed their belief that equipment sales will increase once again, and 32% of them expect increases in excess of 10%! I suppose it’s good to be optimistic, but these days, I like to think as realistically as possible and the usual consumer economic indicators don’t look so hot right now — especially after the mediocre consumer spending runs on Black Friday and the after-Christmas day sales.
According to the Bloomberg Personal Finance website, early fourth quarter spending, overall, is very slightly up, especially on big-ticket items. But the report says most consumers were banking their dollars in anticipation of the government shutdown.
Spending was off during the telltale Black Friday and after Christmas sales. Some analysts say this was due to stores opening earlier on Thanksgiving.
Manufacturing and retail print advertising remains very soft as well, despite the nice growth in those sectors. This is leading to layoffs of thousands of editors, photographers, and other staffers, according to the Huffington Post in a November 11th 2013 report. The reason: to cut costs in the wake of a shift toward digital and social media and mobile platforms. Though the report focuses mostly on newspapers, the trade press is not immune to this.
As we prepare to kick off 2014 in New York at the 66th annual AHR Expo, there is much optimism for the near future. Let’s hope that this year, that optimism pans out. For our advertiser readers, please keep in mind that the trade press, whether in print or online, is still the best way to reach your contractor customers.
Mr. Grinch, signing off.