Sales of foodservice equipment and supplies will increase 6% in 2021, per the latest forecast from the Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry.
While MAFSI projects most of this growth will come in the second half of the year, it still represents welcome news for an industry that saw foodservice equipment and supplies sales decline 19.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020. In most instances, such a steep fourth quarter decline would not represent an improvement compared to previous quarters. Then again, we’re talking about the pandemic-riddled 2020. That means despite a steep decline, the fourth quarter sales results reported by the reps represent increases of 11% and 5% compared to the second and third quarters of last year.
Looking at the fourth quarter sales by category, tabletop declined 39.5%, furniture 27.9%, supplies 19.6% and equipment 16.0%. On a regional basis, sales declined by 25.9% in the Midwest, 25.0% in Canada, 24.7% in the West, 13.6% in the South and 10.6% in the Northeast.
In terms of their outlook for 2021, reps project a 10.7% increase in sales of tabletop items, 10.6% in furniture, 7.3% in supply items and 4.9% in equipment. Also, 68% of reps report an increase in quoting activity, while 16% report no change in this all-important metric. And 50% of reps report an uptick in consultant activity, while 31% report no change in this area and 19% report an increase.
While the bigger picture remains optimistic, equipment and supplies sales are expected to slog along during the first quarter of 2021. MAFSI members forecast a first quarter of 2021 sales decline of 18.9% compared to the same time period in 2020, which was still predominately pre-COVID-19. Consultant activity has slowed at the moment. Specifically, 35% of reps report less consultant activity versus 22% reporting more and 42% indicating no change. But, as pointed out above, that’s expected to change.
During 2020, 39% of reps report they had to reduce the size of their staffs but only 3% predict their companies will have to do so in 2021. In addition, 48% of reps increased their representation of lines in 2020.