Distributors' business reports can't go much lower than the nationwide "poor" recorded for 2002. Machinery moved slowly through the channel as the recession rode distributors hard. Although the forecast for 2002 was "off," this was unexpected.
Sales volume decreased for nearly half of distributors, leaving a net decrease (those reporting an increase minus those reporting a decrease) of 39 percent. Although two-thirds expect 2003 to be flat, 25 percent of distributors do expect volume increases this year.
Volume pain was spread evenly among specialties, although aerial-work platforms and cranes continued to lead the declines. Heavy equipment specialists also recorded a net decrease, though, of 12 percent. Light equipment and paving specialties broke even with equal percentages of distributors reporting increases as decreases.
For this year, material handling, light equipment and trucks and trailers forecast a net, double-digit upturn in volume.
Every sales category was off last year, as measured by the net percentage resulting when decreases are subtracted from increases. New equipment sales suffered the most, as 47 percent reported sales decreases against only 8 percent reporting an increase. Parts sales, short-term rental, and service were nearly a wash with equal percentages reporting increases and decreases.
Margin pressure intensified. Ninety-six percent say competition in the new-equipment market is "intense" or "very intense" in their area. Some 56 percent said margins were lower in 2002 than in 2001, up from 49 percent the year before.