Every year since the end of the recession, the U.S. economy has faced new challenges: spending cuts, increases in taxes, partisan squabbles, the debt ceiling, etc.
This year’s culprate of the economy’s freeze is the winter. The extraordinarily cold weather this winter is hammering a number of industries stymying economic growth.
No industry has been hit harder than construction according to a study economists at Goldman Sachs published earlier this week. The study measured the impact of the weather on Goldman’s Current Activity Indicator, which is a proprietary index measuring economic activity.
qSample surveyed more than 500 respondents from its contractor panel to see what impact the weather was having on their livelihood as well as gauge their perceptions and attitudes about various industry related topics.
More than 34 percent of respondents claimed their business has been adversely affected by this record-breaking winter. Eight percent report they have even had to suspend some work indefinitely.
To combat the scarcity of new projects, more than 46 percent of respondents said they’ve had to scale back labor.
To help increase revenue, 20 percent have had to scale back money towards marketing efforts and 15 percent have had to increase quoting prices on project bids.
However, the majority of the respondents believed as long as you prepare yourself before winter arrives, you can ensure that business continues steadily through the winter. With the right precautions and proper equipment, most construction work can be carried on in winter and at no great difference in cost. With these precautions in place, more than 52 percent of participants claim their business has not been affected.
Seven percent of participants reported purchasing extra equipment needed for protection and artificial heat in winter construction. This obviously requires some additional expense and there may be an increase in overhead on the job due to delays from winter storms, these items often may be offset by the saving in salaries and the reduction in the contractor’s general overhead.
Labor in general tends to be more efficient in winter as skilled workmen can be more easily obtained. More than 18 percent of respondents have actually reported an increase in business. Although relative unit costs of labor in winter and summer vary with the class of work, the cost in winter, especially under first-class management, may be actually less than the cost at other seasons.
Additionally, industry trends have shown building materials sometimes can be obtained at somewhat reduced prices because of the smaller demand during the winter months as well.
Not surprisingly, Home Depot (30 percent) and Lowes (26 percent) are the top two stores respondents went to for building materials and tools. Ace Hardware came in a distant third at slightly more than 13 percent.
Most respondents, 35 percent, cited “Location” as their primary reason for choosing which home improvement store they frequented. “Bigger Selection” and “Better Prices” were the second most important factors for the respondents at 17 percent each.
Another noteworthy finding from the study were the feelings respondents had toward bigger home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot. More than 40 percent described their relationship with the larger stores as, “I use them because their prices and selection cannot be beat, but I’d go elsewhere if it made sense.”
28 percent said they felt indifferent toward the bigger stores and only 16 percent reporting they liked shopping from them. (RW)
Contractors will probably always rely on word-of-mouth marketing to obtain new business, but it seems some contractors are starting to see the value in a new form of word of mouth.
According to the study, nearly 42 percent of the respondents, the overwhelming majority, rely primarily on word of mouth marketing. 12 percent of respondents are relying primarily on social media for their marketing efforts, four percent more than paid advertisements.
New technology is being innovated to make contractors jobs easier. New apps for smart phones are making it easier for contractors to shop for materials, check availability, create bids, estimate, design, market, etc.
The majority of respondents have yet to adopt this new wave of technology. More than 37 percent reported either not owning a smartphone or utilizing any industry related applications. The most popular app among panelists was the Home Depot Pro App, which launched this past November. Other popular apps included: Lowe’s Mobile, AutoCAD WS, iHandy Level, EverNote, and Construction Master Pro.