PPAI recently surveyed suppliers and distributors for its Q1 Industry Sales Reports to develop a scenario of how 2021 began. Comparing the industry’s performance in first quarter 2021 with fourth quarter 2020, the survey shows how sales have changed and also forecasts what industry companies are expecting as vaccines become available and more businesses return to normal operations.

First quarter results showed sales performance eased for both suppliers and distributors. Looking at the changes in overall sales between fourth quarter 2020 and first quarter 2021, 51 percent of suppliers reported a decrease, while 28 percent registered an increase. Similarly among distributors, 48 percent saw a decrease in sales quarter to quarter and 20 percent reported an increase. Year-over-year, 49 percent of suppliers and 58 percent of distributors said first-quarter 2021 sales were below the same period in 2020.

Looking ahead to second quarter 2021, suppliers and distributors are both considerably more optimistic. Eighty percent of suppliers expect sales to increase in second quarter and 70 percent of distributors feel the same way. There is little pessimism in either group, as only two percent of suppliers and 13 percent of distributors expect sales to decline in the second quarter.

Remote meetings continue to be standard practice for a large percentage of the industry in the first quarter. The survey found 70 percent of suppliers and 63 percent of distributors reporting that they were not meeting with their clients in person.

Full results of the first-quarter industry sales reports are available here for suppliers and here for distributors.