Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) announced North American HVACR average distributor sales for April 2011 up just less than a percent from the same month last year snapping a string of 10 consecutive months with an average 10% annual growth rate.

HARDI’s Monthly Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies (TRENDS) Report showed uneven results among HARDI’s eight North American regions with April 2011 to April 2010 growth averages ranging from +8.6% to -11.7%. Canada led in declines continuing its sixth month of annual growth rate declines.

Inventory levels were higher than last year for the majority of HARDI distributors, though Days Sales Outstanding continued its third consecutive month of increases.

"The construction markets for commercial and single-unit housing have failed to make substantial gains so far in 2011, and this is no doubt having a negative effect on member sales. After five consecutive months of same-month sales growth vs last year, sales in April were flat (+0.1% on average). It has been traditionally difficult for member sales to improve when the market for new single family homes is stagnant, but some opportunities for growth canbe found in the smaller, but booming, multi-unit housing market, up 39.0% from last year and growing" said HARDI Chief Economist Alan Beaulieu of the Institute for Trend Research (ITR).

"When we started our TRENDS program three years ago with ITR, we purposely invested in a high level of regionalization precisely for months like this one," said HARDI Executive Vice President and C.O.O. Talbot Gee. "Had we only been looking at the national numbers which were basically flat in April, we’d miss the strong turnaround we’re seeing in our Western region and the significant falloff experienced in the Mid-West regions."

Gee continued, "We’re continuing to see a slide in the sale of high-efficiency air-conditioning and heat pump unitary products with minimum efficiency units comprising over 70% of sales, and this is before the true busy season has really started." HARDI cites the introduction of "dry-shipped" R-22 units this year and the significant reduction in the 25C tax credit as the main causes of this trend.

The HARDI Targeted and Regional Economic News for Distribution Strategies (T.R.E.N.D.S.) program is an exclusive member benefit comprised of monthly distributor sales reports and quarterly HVACR-specific economic forecasts. T.R.E.N.D.S. is produced exclusively for HARDI by the Institute for Trend Research.