Clear Seas Research, a company of BNP Media, which is Stone World‘s parent company, has been conducting regular surveys entitled “Industry Perspective on the Challenges of Today” to monitor how manufacturers in the architectural, engineering and construction industries are coping with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Of those polled, 19% were from the northeast, 24% from the west, 25% from the Midwest and 32% from the south. At this time, discussions surrounding the reopening of the U.S. economy have begun. There is existing controversy surrounding the gradual reopening of the economy, with great consideration being given to both the health of people and the economic health of our country. But judging by the results of the survey, as well as talking with industry professionals, there is one point to agree on – now is the time to plan a strategy to retain customers and find new ones for the future.
How to successfully sustain business through this difficult time is certainly at the forefront of most people. Slightly under half (47%) of participants said business is on schedule, which has dropped from 55% last month. A total of 37% are experiencing delays, which has increased from 33% when first polled, and 16% reported job cancellations – up from 12% at the end of March.
“I have been talking to a lot of fabricators over the last two months,” said industry veteran G.K. Naquin, president of Stone Interiors and the 2005 recipient of Stone World’s Fabricator of the Year Award, during a recent webinar session given at Coverings Connected. “A lot still had a good two- to three-month backlog, but that backlog is starting to slow up. Many have seen a 55 to 65% drop of new orders coming in.”
Naquin’s finding is on par with the results of the most recent survey. 65% of respondents indicated a decline in new business activity development, while 17% said there was no change. A fortunate 18% reported an increase in new business.
For the majority of companies, a new plan will have to be implemented to gain new business. Even when areas start to reopen, there will be a new “norm.” More than ever, tools such as video conferencing, virtual showrooms and other online services will be a critical component of survival.
“We have been through this before and made it through,” said Naquin. “In 2009, we had to change the way we were doing business. At that time, we were a wholesale fabricator. We didn’t deal with the public or builders. We changed the way we were doing business. Those who can change their ways will be okay.”
According to Clear Seas Research, the survey indicates that the industry professionals polled have changed the way they are communicating with employees and customers, and report they are using this down time to position themselves and their businesses for success when things return to “normal.” “What the new ‘normal’ will be remains to be seen, however, industry professionals are hopeful that their business activities will be back on track in the next six months or so,” stated the Clear Seas Research report. “As with prior waves, the information contained within this report represents moments in time. It provides the collective voice of industry decision makers, influencers and contributors, and offers a unique understanding of where businesses are today.”
The survey also shows that the small business stimulus offered through the CARES Act appears to be having a positive effect on some industry members. Of those surveyed, 11% have already applied, been approved and received money, while 14% have applied, been approved and are waiting to receive money and another 32% have applied and waiting on approval. A total of 17% of respondents said that they qualify but aren’t planning to apply and 26% unfortunately do not qualify.
Showing signs of optimism, the majority of those surveyed (39%) believe that business will get back on track in three months or less, while 32% say it will take four to six months. Others (8%) believe business will resume to how it was in 7 to 9 months, while 14% say 10 to 12 months, 1% 13 to 15 months, 5% 16 to 18 months and 2% say it will take longer than 18 months.
Data for this survey was gathered between April 16 to 20, 2020 and published on April 22, 2020. To view the entire report, which is available free-of-charge, visit: https://www.clearseasresearch.com/product/architecture-engineering-construction-ipct-report-fieldwork-april-16-20-2020/.