Distributor Industry Sales

3Q 2013 Industry Sales Report: Industry Sales Increase 4.6%

Research by Larry Basinait

On October 14th, 2013, ASI® commissioned an exclusive survey to estimate industry sales for the third quarter of 2013. The industry outlook for the remainder of the year was also included in the study. Invitations went to ASI distributor members who were the primary contact with their firms and had been in business at least one year. The results of this survey will be published in Counselor®, PromoGram® and on ASICentral.com.

A total of 378 distributor firms responded to the survey request out of 13,300 invited, resulting in a 2.8% response rate. An incentive of a drawing for $500 was offered. Larger distributors were over-sampled, with results then weighted for a more accurate analysis. Further, ASI maintains an ongoing participant panel of 42 members, all among the larger players in the industry.

Once again, ASI has included a new metric to quantify distributor business results. The Counselor Confidence Index shows how well distributors believe the "health" of their business is relative to other years since 2001. The index uses 2001 as a base year to compare current findings. The index is patterned after the Consumer Confidence Index®.

The 4Q 2013 Sales Study Report will be published in January 2014.


  • During the third quarter of 2013, there was a 4.6% year-over-year increase in sales among ASI distributor members. The largest distributors, defined as those with revenue over $5 million, reported increased revenue of 6.1%, the highest of any group.

  • The increase in sales reported indicates industry growth of $232 million over the third quarter of 2012. Sales for the third quarter of 2013 were approximately $5.3 billion.

  • Distributors remain fairly optimistic about sales for 2013, though the extent of the optimism has moderated over the course of the year. Over one-half (55.2%) of all distributors feel sales for 2013 will be higher than sales in 2012. The second-quarter forecast was 58.7%.

    • The largest distributors are the most optimistic, with two-thirds (66.7%) of those with annual revenue over $5 million now expecting an increase in sales for the year.

    • Sales for all of 2013 are expected to be higher by 61.2% of suppliers, according the 3Q ASI Quarterly Supplier Sales Report.

  • Results for the second-quarter Counselor Confidence Index show a score of 111.0, up each quarter of 2013. This suggests distributors feel the industry as a whole is healthy. The baseline was set at the 2001 confidence level, equal to 100.

Detailed Findings

How did your third-quarter 2013 sales compare with your third-quarter 2012 sales?

  • Just under one-half (48.9%) of respondents reported an increase in sales in the third quarter of 2013 compared to the third quarter of 2012.

3Q '13 Sales vs. 3Q '12 Sales

  • The third-quarter year-over-year sales increased 4.6%. The last six quarters have been fairly consistent, between 4.6% and 5.7%. This shows steady, sustained growth.

  • Distributors with revenue under $250,000 reported a 2.3 percentage point increase in revenue, up from 1.1% in the second quarter. The largest distributors, defined as those with revenue over $5 million, reported increased revenue of 6.1%, the highest of any group, and similar to the 6.3% reported in Q3.

Current quarter sales vs. quarter year ago

Industry Sales vs. Same Quarter Prior Year

  • The third quarter of 2013 resulted in a sales increase of 4.6%, the fifteenth straight quarterly increase.

  • The quarterly increase in revenue was somewhat less than what was reported for 2Q 2013 (5.1%), but the same as 3Q 2012 (4.6%).

Industry sales revenue % change vs. year ago quarter

Current Quarter Sales vs. Same Quarter One Year Ago

  • The percentage of distributor firms that indicate the current quarter's sales are greater than those of the corresponding quarter from the prior year was essentially flat at 49%.

    • Since 3Q '10, the average number of distributors reporting an increase in sales over the corresponding quarter from the prior year is 53%, so the current quarter is slightly below the recent average.

% of Distributor Firms with increase in sales qtrly comparisons

What is your forecast for your overall sales in 2013 compared to sales in 2012?

  • Over one-half (55.2%) of respondents expect an increase in sales in 2013. However, during the second quarter, 58.7% anticipated an increase. This shows a slight decline.

  • The number of distributor firms anticipating an increase is over two times greater than the number of those anticipating a decrease.

Sales forecast 2013 vs. 2012

How do you feel your sales for all of 2013 will compare to your sales for all of 2012? (By company size.)

  • The most optimistic segment of distributors is again the largest, as two-thirds (66.7%) anticipate higher sales in 2013 than in 2012. While more realistic estimates for sales increases change as more business results are booked, there was still a large decline on the forecast from the largest distributors, when 83.3% forecast an annual increase after the second quarter.

  • Distributors forecasting an increase estimated an aggressive increase in sales of 14.9% for 2013. Those forecasting a decrease estimated a decrease of 16.2%.

Sales faorecast 2013 vs. 2012

Counselor Confidence Index

Please rate the "health" of the promotional products industry for distributors in general for the third quarter of 2013.

Beginning with the first quarter of 2013, ASI is producing another measure of industry sales results. Taking data from over a decade of Counselor magazine State of the Industry survey results, ASI has developed the Counselor Confidence Index.

Patterned after The Conference Board's Counselor Confidence Index®, the Counselor Confidence Index is an indicator designed to measure distributor health, which is defined as the degree of optimism on the state of the industry that distributors are experiencing through the results of their business operations. The value from the industry health question is compared against each respective score since 2001, and an index is derived. The year 2001 was chosen as a benchmark because it was neither a peak nor trough in the business cycle.

The chart below shows annual results of using the index. Results for the third quarter show a score of 111.0.

Counselor confidence index