Challenge, opportunity and growth: Our market forecast for manufacturers of awnings.
By Jeff Rasmussen
In 2008, nonresidential construction amounted to $712.9 billion, 11.8 percent above the $637.5 billion figure for 2007. This helped to offset a weak residential construction market in 2008, which was down 26.8 percent in 2008. The numbers for nonresidential construction continue to surprise economists. Of the 16 reported nonresidential sectors, 13 showed year-over-year gains, including lodging, manufacturing and amusement/recreation. The three nonresidential segments generating less spending in 2008: commercial (down 3.6 percent), religious construction (down 4.1 percent) and communication construction (down 7.9 percent). In total, nonresidential construction shed a total of 53,400 jobs, down 6.7 percent in 2008—the largest loss since 1991. In comparison, residential construction lost 120,400 jobs, down 13.3 percent in 2008. As good as the year-over-year growth figures for the U.S. nonresidential construction sector were in 2008, the prognosis for 2009 is that they will stall, and that overall growth for nonresidential construction will increase by 1.2 percent.
The worldwide credit freeze caused a drop in construction spending in the second half of 2008, a modest decline in new project starts, and many more project delays and cancellations. Housing starts in the U.S. have dropped to almost nothing as we progress into 2009. The construction outlook for 2009–2010 has worsened, and is dependent on how quickly the financial markets are corrected.
The slump in the U.S. housing sector shows little sign of abating. Forward-looking housing construction indicators continue to decline sharply. Housing prices continue to fall, and the pace of decline had intensified even before the financial meltdown in October 2008. Housing inventory remains elevated above normal levels by some 1.5 million homes; a good fraction of current existing home sales have been foreclosure sales. With the shock of the credit freeze now ending, the focus is on the spillover effects of reduced economic growth, which reduces the demand for added space and facility capacity.
The negative developments in the U.S. construction industry contributed to roughly a –5.0 percent decline for the U.S. awning and canopy market in 2008. In general, U.S. home values fell approximately 20 percent in 2008. Consumers are likely to have another one to two years of low housing values. Many homeowners no longer have the equity to invest in home improvements such as adding a custom awning to their dwelling.
The weak economy and uncertainty in housing markets remain key hurdles for remodeling activity, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) pointed to homeowner improvement spending declining at an estimated annual rate of –11.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The LIRA is expected to decline further in 2009, to –12.0 percent by the second quarter and –12.1 percent by the third quarter. Falling home prices and job losses have contributed to reduced spending on home improvements. Any remodeling rebound must be accompanied by stability in the housing market, which may begin to emerge sometime in the fourth quarter of 2009. The difficult times being experienced in the construction industry played an important role in the approval of a $787 billion economic stimulus package approved by President Obama and the U.S. Congress in February 2009; the package includes more than $100 billion in spending for construction programs and tax incentives designed to aid the U.S. construction industry.
For 2008, total fabric consumed for awnings and canopies reached approximately 33.4 million square yards, down about 5 percent from 35.2 million square yards in 2007. For 2009, IFAI’s market research services department is projecting another 5 percent decrease in fabric consumption by awning and canopy fabricators. Total sales for 2009 are predicted to reach approximately 31.7 million square yards.
Outlook > Awnings and canopies
Both fabric suppliers and end-product manufacturers will see an overall drop in sales revenue in 2009 due to the slow U.S. economy, tight credit conditions and a retrenchment in spending by customers. In fact, in an IFAI survey in November 2008, 41 percent of suppliers and end-product manufacturers reported an unfavorable outlook for sales growth in 2009 compared to 2008; only 35 percent reported a favorable outlook for sales growth in 2009.
Prices for fabric will continue to increase. There will be more ‘green’ business as firms seek ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. There is still a strong need to increase consumer awareness of awnings and their direct benefits, especially in energy savings. Growth in the awnings market tends to be local; certain areas of the United States are strong, while other areas are suffering more from current economic conditions. Consolidation of companies will increase as weaker firms either go out of business or are acquired by stronger firms. This will lead to fewer players competing for the same—or possibly decreasing—pool of potential customers, who may be looking to scale back their own expenditures in 2009.
Creativity and the use of innovative materials and technologies will reward those market players who increase their value proposition to their customers in 2009. If the economic climate begins to improve in the second half of 2009, suppliers, end-product manufacturers and customers should begin to gain confidence in the economy, which will help to spur business investment, consumer spending and real growth for the awning and canopy market in the last six months of 2009 and beyond.