CBA’s Trends Survey – the results are in

The results of CBA’s latest Supply Chain Trends Survey reveal weakened order books since the last survey and an accelerating decline in sales margins. Trends in employment and training have turned firmly positive against a background of stable current sales and a positive outlook for the next three months.

Peter Newport, CBA’s chief executive, said: “Our survey shows an industry successfully managing short-term demand in a highly competitive market with falling sales margins indicating that the stocks built up during the transition period have now been sold. Member companies are forecasting higher sales over the next three months, but only a modest improvement in sales margins.”

CBA’s online Supply Chain Trends Survey was conducted between 10-19 March 2021 and is based on responses from 67 member companies – the highest level of responses since these surveys began eight years ago.

The 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’ and focuses on the positive or negative balance provided by the difference between the ‘better-worse’ responses.

  • Current order books – Weakened

Members are asked if their order books are better, worse, or the same than during the last three months. The March 2021 survey shows a balance of +14% – a fall from the +20% reported in our last survey (October 2020).

  • Sales volumes – Current sales stable; future sales forecast to increase

Respondents compare their current sales volumes with the preceding three months and indicate their expectations for the next three months. Current sales volumes have remained stable at +26% (October 2020, +25%). The trend for the next three months is positive at +30% significantly higher than the balance of +5% reported in October 2020.

  • Sales margins – Current margins continue to fall but recovery forecast

Companies compare their current sales margins with the preceding three months and also forecast their trend over the coming three months. Current sales margins have continued to decline and now show a negative balance of -21% – a further decline from the -6% reported in October 2020. Sales margins are forecast to stage a significant recovery in the next three months to +6% (compared to the -32% in October 2020).

  • 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 employment trend shows a sharp improvement to +33% (+13% in October 2020). Member companies were also asked if their investment in training would be higher, lower, or remain the same over the next three months. Trends for both current training levels (+32%) and future training levels (+39%) remain firmly positive.