Order books remain positive but forecast to decline rapidly

The latest Supply Chain Trends Survey from the Chemical Business Association (CBA) shows a continuing positive trend for order books and current sales – though this trend is forecast to decline rapidly over the next three months. Sales Margins are neutral and are also forecast to decline in the immediate future. Employment and training trends remain positive.

CBA’s Chief Executive, Peter Newport said, “This Survey reveals an industry emerging from three years of Brexit uncertainty and just prior to it beginning to experience the measures to counter the coronavirus.”

“The cumulative impact of these measures will have a major impact on the chemical supply chain in the months to come and its ability to deliver critical chemical components to the UK manufacturing sector,” he added.

The CBA’s on-line Trends Survey was conducted during the two weeks from 4-17 March 2020 and is based on responses from 47 member companies.

About the survey

CBA’s Supply Chain Trends Survey asks companies to provide information on order books, sales, sales margins, and employment, on a ‘better–worse–same’ basis. To measure short-term trends, the analysis ignores responses answering ‘same’.

  • Current order books – Remain positive

The March survey shows a positive balance of +33% – an improvement from the +13% positive balance reported by CBA’s last survey in November 2019.

  • Sales volumes – Improving but forecast to decline

Respondents compare their current sales volumes with the preceding three months and indicate their expectations for the next three months. Current sales volumes remain positive (+32%). This is a recovery from the balance of +12% reported in the November 2019 survey. The outlook for the next three months, whilst remaining positive, shows a decline to +6% – a decline from +18% reported in our last survey.

  • Sales margins – Currently neutral but continuing decline forecast

Companies compare their current sales margins with the preceding three months and forecast their trend over the coming three months. Current sales margins are now neutral (0%) and little changed from the +2% reported in the November survey. The outlook for future sales margins remains negative with -7% (-8% in November 2019) of companies expecting a continuing decline in the next three months.

  • Employment and training – Improving steadily

Member companies are asked if their employment levels will be higher, lower, or remain the same over the next three months. The trend for employment in the current survey shows an improvement to +13% from the record low level of +2% reported in the November 2019 survey. Member companies were also asked if their employment levels and investment in training would be higher, lower, or remain the same over the next three months. Trends for both employment (+28%) and training (+42%) remain firmly positive.