E&S Market Remained Strong Fourth Quarter; MAFSI Barometer Rose 4.9%
While there is understandable concern about the direction of the E&S market in the U.S. and Canada as the new year begins, sales remained good in the fourth quarter 2015, according to the quarterly Business Barometer compiled by the Manufacturers Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry. The reps surveyed reported sales of like lines rose 4.9% in the quarter versus the fourth quarter in 2014. And the outlook for both the first quarter of 2016 and the year as a whole remains quite positive.
The gain follows a 5% overall increase in the 3Q, a 5.1% gain 2Q and a 4.7% rise in the 1Q 2015 for a four-quarter moving average of more than 4.9%. The result makes 2015 the strongest four-quarter period in the history of the Barometer since it was launched in 2002.
Equipment sales rose 5.1%, the fourth consecutive quarter of gains of 5% or more. Durable supplies sales were up 4%, tabletop, tabletop and servingware sales increased 4.7%, and those of furniture gained 2.8%.
Among the regions, the West saw a robust gain of 6.9% while sales in the Midwest rose 5.6%. The South and Northeast reported more moderate increases of 4.3% and 4.2%, respectively. E&S sales in Canada dropped sharply to 1% following a 4.7% gain in the 3Q. The foodservice market in Canada has been undermined by the continuing impact of lower global oil prices.
The reps reported continued strong quotation and consultant activity. The positive differential between those reporting more activity and those seeing less was 42 points for quotation activity and 35 points for consultant activity in the 4Q. The differences were 43 points and 32 points respectively in the 3Q.
The reps forecast for 1Q/16 is a sales gain of 4.3% compared to 1Q last year, while the gain for 2016 as a whole is 4.5%. This means the reps are actually a bit more optimistic about 2016 than they were about 2015 at this time last year, when they forecast a year-over-year gain of 4.1%.
The complete MAFSI Barometer, including sales trends for specific equipment categories, is available at mafsi.org.