Association Warns Industry is in Backside of Business Cycle

The wholesale-distributors industry celebrated record-high levels of activity and employment in 2018, but there are signs growth is slowing down, according to the newly released National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) Annual Report.

The 12-month growth rate was 7.5 percent for wholesale-distribution, pushing the industry to $6.01 trillion for 2018 – the highest-ever mark. Nearly every industry segment saw positive results during the period, including professional and commercial equipment (5.5 percent growth).

However, despite those figures, the NAW warned that 2019 is not likely to be as successful. “Distributors need to be very cautious in their sales-growth expectations for 2019; it will not be a repeat of 2018,” the annual report said. While the growth rate of 7.5 percent was strong, the quarterly growth rate has shrunk to 4.7 percent, indicating the industry is on the back end of a business cycle. Slower growth is now occurring and is expected to characterize all of 2019 and early 2020, the NAW said.

The association found that three factors were driving the economic slowdown:

  • Retail sales shifted to the back side of the business cycle.
  • Nondefense capital goods new orders also experiencing a slower rate of growth.
  • Growth in exports has declined due to the stronger dollar, weakening demand amidst the cooling global economy, and reciprocal tariffs from other countries.

Even as growth slows, the number of distribution jobs has never been higher. Employment in the wholesale-distribution industry reached a record 5.9 million people in 2018 – a 51,000 increase from the prior year. The industry now employs 4.6 percent of the nation’s total private workforce, the NAW said.

The complete report, which can be found here, also detailed the NAW’s advocacy and engagement efforts. Included in the report are the 2019 dates for the NAW roundtable events.

Billion Dollar Company Executive Roundtables:

  • Billion Dollar Company CFO Roundtable, June 4–5, 2019 and Dec. 3–4
  • Billion Dollar Company CIO Roundtable, June 4–5, 2019 and Dec. 3–4
  • Billion Dollar Company Chief Legal Officer Roundtable, May 14–15 and Nov. 19–20
  • Billion Dollar Company CHRO Roundtable, May 14–15 and Nov. 19–20
  • Billion Dollar Company Operations Roundtable, May 14–15 and Nov. 19–20
  • Billion Dollar Company CEO Roundtable, Oct. 2–3

     

Large Company Executive Roundtables (for member companies with sales of $100 million to $1 billion):

  • Large Company CEO Roundtable, Sept. 17–18
  • Large Company CFO Roundtable, April 30–May 1 and Nov. 5–6
  • Large Company Operations Roundtable, April 30–May 1 and Nov. 5–6