We will change it up a little this month given the changing state of the world in late February and certainly in March. We will report on the results of our survey like normal, but comments about the national news in January and February will be left to the rest of our report if you are interested.
Quickly, January 2020 orders were up 2% over January 2019. While on the surface that may not seem all that great, a very high performance in January 2019 helps to tell a bigger part of the story. January 2019 orders were up 8% over January 2018, so the 2% increase was not all that bad. Just over one-half of the participants reported increased orders. Shipments in January were down 3% from January 2019, but January 2019 shipments were up 14% over January 2018, making the small decline this January seem not so bad. Just over one-half of the participants reported increased shipments so those that reported declining shipments in some cases were off quite a bit.
Receivable levels were in reasonable ranges. Inventories, while still a bit high, seem to have leveled off at these higher levels. The number of factory and warehouse employees also seem pretty much in line with current business conditions.
Well, many of us have been in the stay-at-home mode for a week or so due to Guilford County, NC shutting down. Now the NC governor has issued the same or similar rules. We, as a Public Accounting Firm, are a protected industry (still gotta get those tax returns and audits done) but have restricted most employees to working from home. I cannot imagine being able to do this years ago when we didn’t have the technology we have today.
When there were questions about whether to have the April market, we talked with a few folks who decided they were not going to show in April but were putting together plans to go out to customers with their own technology. Now that Market has been pushed back to June with questions about that being able to happen, we think that plan is still a good one. While much of the country has been hit with the virus, there are still parts that are open. So, it’s a good idea to focus on those folks. Also, using technology to keep your products in front of all your customers cannot hurt to let them know you are thinking about them.
The various stimulus packages put out by the government last week will certainly help many people. Be sure to work with your bankers and accountants to allow you to take advantage of many of these opportunities. Some are not totally flushed out yet, but we think in our reading and our talks with others, many of the details will be figured out in a couple of weeks. Be sure to get on your bankers and accountants lists as soon as possible. They still don’t know to a tee all the details, but they will get there. If not, find someone who can at least help. We know the devil is in the details, so we are just going to have to figure those out as we muddle through this.
For our industry, this virus and related issues came at a not so good time. Business in general had seemed to be improving along with the economy.
In the meantime, stay safe. Support your local establishments that remain open. Stay away from crowds. And as they say, wash your hands, don’t hoard. Share some good jokes and keep some humor going. We all need that.