While the state of the current economy remains the chief concern, recent survey data shows contractors maintain a positive business outlook in terms of rebounding from the COVID-19 crisis.
Clear Seas Research — the survey and research arm of RC’s parent company, BNP Media — conducted a series of surveys from late March to early May of professionals across several industries. The majority of contractor respondents indicated that they could rebound by ramping up operations within 90 days.
As of the most recent data available, about 38% of contractors that responded indicated they could rebound to regular business levels within three months or less. Another 27% said it could happen within four to six months.
While the number of contractors expressing their overall concern about the economy hovered between 69% to 73% during the successive surveys, those concerned about achieving business goals over the next three months fell from 68% in March to 60% by May 1. Concerns over supply-chain interruptions also fell as the pandemic continued (36% to 31%), as did concerns over becoming personally infected with COVID-19 (47% to 38%).
The same survey showed that roughly 70% of contractors saw a decline in new business activity as the crisis deepened. That put more of an emphasis on backlogs, and keeping working crews healthy.
By early May, 41% of contractors said incorporating additional health and safety procedures became the area of greater focus compared to six months ago. Attending more webinars ranked second, but far behind at 33%.
Following new health and safety standards was proving more difficult for roofing contractors with operations in different locations, particularly states where restrictions — and enforcement — varied.
“It’s really the unknown that is the hardest part,” said Duane Nash, president of Kodiak Roofing & Waterproofing.
Based in California, the commercial contractor also has operations in Nevada.
“We have all these different counties and states that we work in, and everybody has different rules and regulations,” he explained. “There’s no uniformity to it … we’re just trying to jump through the different hoops that are there and make sure we’re in compliance and keeping our guys safe.”
The survey showed the roofing industry, and the construction trades overall, stayed resilient despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. In places where roofing companies could work, about half of contractors indicated their active business projects remained on schedule through early May. The amount of canceled active business never reached higher than 19% throughout the entire survey period. The results were similar for projects already in the planning stages.
Though challenging, attracting new business remained a top priority for roofing contractors from coast to coast. From early April to early May, between 56% to 60% of contractors indicated a decline in their marketing budgets. Just 12% of respondents consistently said they’d increase marketing funds during the pandemic. Once their existing backlog thinned, some contractors focused on new marketing tactics, despite conventional wisdom to do otherwise.
“This is the time to market, to actually invest and get people in so that when the onslaught of work does come you’re geared up,” said Stan Robinson, owner of Pacific West Roofing in Tualatin, Ore.
When it came to workers, 36% of survey respondents said they anticipated no workforce changes in the next three months. That grew from 28% at the onset of the pandemic.
About 17% indicated they would hire new employees over the next 90 days while 18% said they anticipated some layoffs. That same amount indicated they would rehire previously suspended or furloughed workers.