Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) announced North American HVACR average distributor sales for March 2012 were up 11.5%. HARDI’s Monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies (TRENDS) Report showed growth in six of seven US regions; five in double-digits.

“The annual growth rate improved for the third straight month, rising above 3.0%,” according to HARDI economist, Andrew Duguay. “March sales, on average, were 11.5% higher than March 2011, building off the 9.6% February gain. Momentum from the rates-of-change is clearly positive," Duguay says. "The activity at the distributor level is also being reflected in national consumer data. Retail Sales (deflated ex autos) has also shifted to higher growth rates in 2012 (from 1.7% in January to 1.9% in March). This is a positive confirming indicator for the current HARDI Distributor growth rate trend.”

“Optimism is high, as we see distributors stocking up more strategically for strong anticipated demand this summer.”
—Talbot Gee

Days Sales Outstanding (a measure of how quickly customers pay their bills) crept up for the seventh time in eight months, increasing to over 52 days. Distributor productivity reflected by sales per employee emphatically bucked a seven-month decline by rebounding over 22% from last month’s figures.

“Optimism is high as we see distributors stocking up more strategically for strong anticipated demand this summer,” says HARDI Executive Vice President and C.O.O. Talbot Gee. “Light commercial markets appear to be a source of unexpectedly strong growth, and the early heat has provided a nice jump-start to the cooling season," Gee says.

Gee adds, “Distributors’ unitary sales are also starting off 2012 strong across most product groups, but with an accelerating movement to 13 SEER and R-22 products. Recent OEM reports of exceptional preseason order volumes support our forecast for a strong unitary market in 2012."

The sales increases are welcome news, after HARDI distributors' annual growth rate fell below 5% for the first time in December, 2011. (See this story.)