Glow or glower? Readers chart industry’s prospects for 2013

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine—In mid-December, The Wall Street Journal defied doomsayers and the pending fiscal cliff with an article headlined “Economy Poised to Nudge Ahead in 2013.” The Journal predicted that the U.S. recovery would gain a bit of steam through the year, ushering in a period of more normal growth.

Security interests fared better than most during the recession, but it would be a stretch to say that overall growth has been robust. So do members of the industry share the Journal’s pre-New Year’s glow, or are they more guarded about the future?

To find out, SSN asked readers to look back on 2012 and gauge the prospects for this year. The results, tallied in the March News Poll, revealed “steady” top-line and bottom-line revenue last year for a majority of the 60 participants. For 2013, respondents were decidedly more upbeat: Sixty percent projected higher revenue for their companies.

“The short and sweet answer is that builders are building again,” one reader wrote, reporting that his company’s revenues were up more than 10 percent last year and that he expected similar growth in 2013.

“Eight years of double-digit growth. Poised to continue,” another respondent said.

Many others echoed the optimism. Among the comments:

“We should double in size this year.”

“New entrants are providing new energy in the market and helping to educate consumers about the value of home security.”

“Cautiously optimistic that 2013 will see better increases than the past couple of years.”

Not everyone saw the glass as half full. Twenty-three percent said their margins were “very skinny” last year, with 33 percent predicting that 2013 would bring much the same.

“Consumer credit qualifications are the issue in the residential market in the Southeast,” a reader wrote. Another said growth at his company was still aggressive, but “margins are tighter as competition is more intense in a slower overall economic [growth] cycle.”

Eight percent of poll respondents predicted a decline in revenue in 2013. “Slightly higher sales with margins crushed,” wrote one reader, adding that his company’s bottom-line revenue was “very skinny” last year.

Another reader who forecast on-par growth in 2013 touched on the implications of Obamacare: “Expectations for increases in health care costs are a major concern.”

Michael Barnes, a partner in the consulting and advisory firm Barnes Associates, expressed optimism but tempered it with a dash of caution. “Everything feels better, but we still aren’t entirely seeing it in the numbers,” he said.