PPAI surveyed suppliers and distributors last month for its Q4 Industry Sales Reports to learn how they were faring as the year came to a close. The survey also measured the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry in the October to December timeframe and assessed how businesses responded.

Results of the fourth quarter results were a mixed bag for both suppliers and distributors. Looking at the changes in overall sales between third quarter and fourth quarter 2020, 43 percent of suppliers reported a decrease, while 39 percent registered an increase. Similarly among distributors, 39 percent saw a decrease in sales quarter to quarter and 45 percent reported an increase. Year-over-year, 69 percent of suppliers and 60 percent of distributors said fourth-quarter 2020 sales were below the same period in 2019.

Looking ahead, expectations for first quarter 2021 sales are also mixed. Among suppliers, 31 percent expect an increase and 40 percent anticipate a decrease, while 20 percent expect to remain the same. Distributors have similar expectations, with 33 percent saying an increase is in store for the quarter and 38 percent anticipate a decrease, with 19 percent expecting sales to remain the same.

Comparing orders in fourth quarter 2020 to the same quarter in 2019, 70 percent of suppliers say that their order count has decreased, while 26 percent report an increase. Distributors reported a similar picture, with 72 percent saying orders decreased year-over-year and 19 percent saying they increased. Looking at order size in fourth quarter 2020 compared to the year-ago level, 53 percent of suppliers report a decrease while 30 percent saw an increase. Among distributors, 51 percent say they saw reductions in order size while 30 percent registered an increase.

Remote meetings remained the standard in fourth quarter, with 89 percent of suppliers and 71 percent of distributors reporting that they were not meeting with their clients in person.

Full results of the fourth-quarter industry sales reports for suppliers and distributors are available to PPAI members here.