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Reps' Outlook Mixed

Independent manufacturers' reps forecast decreased sales for the fourth quarter but predict a healthy increase in 2013.

After posting a solid 4.3 percent growth rate for the third fiscal quarter of 2012, members of the Manufacturers Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry (MAFSI) report a decline in the level of quoting and consultant activities as the year comes to a close and that contributed to their forecasting a slight decline in sales for the fourth quarter of 2012. Despite these mixed results, MAFSI members project a healthy 4.7 percent gain for 2013, according to the association's Business Barometer study.

The 4.3 percent third-quarter increase in sales represents a 0.7 percent increase over the second quarter. And the MAFSI Business Barometer also beat its projected growth rate for the period by 0.2 percent.

By region, sales increases include: 6.3 percent in the Northeast, 4.2 percent in the West, 4.0 percent in the South, 3.8 percent in the Midwest and 3.6 percent in Canada. By product categories, sales grew by 4.7 percent in equipment, 3.9 percent in supplies, 3.7 percent in tabletop and 1.5 percent in furnishings.

For the fourth quarter of 2012, MAFSI members project a 3.8 percent growth. And the percentage of reps who report that they are quoting more has dropped to 39 percent, the lowest level in two years. Similarly, only 25 percent report an increase in consultant activity, also a two-year low.

For reps, the "hot spots" of activity from the coming year include education (K?12 and colleges), healthcare, and chain restaurants. Reps' soft spots include fine dining, independent operators and corrections.