The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Interior Design Billings Index ended 2011 slightly below positive territory at 49.4, continuing a decline in November (50.2) from October (51.4), when the Index hit its highest point in the second half of the year. The Inquiries Index, however, stayed positive at 52.0 (compared to 53.8 in November), suggesting that interior design clients may be holding off on projects until the economy shows stronger signs of sustaining a recovery. The Interior Design Index fell behind the AIA Billings Index for the second month in a row; it stayed at 52, the same as for October.
Index highlights include:
Decline Across Billing Sectors: Firms of all specializations - with one exception, multi-family/senior housing - reported billing declines. A pattern of growth across all sectors was evident in the first half of 2011, while this trend was reversed in the latter part of 2011. Sector Index Means: Residential 56 [single 48, multi-housing 64], Commercial 44, Institutional 44
Regionally, firms in the Midwest, South and West regions reported gains in December, while the Northeast showed a decline. The West region reported increased billings in 10 of the past 12 months. The Midwest and Northeast were more inconsistent, reporting growth during the first six months and declines in the last six months.
Product Sales, Hiring Are Up: Despite the year-end dip, respondents reported substantial increases (10% or more) in product sales among a large number of categories, compared to those of the previous quarter. Products related to home remodeling projects were especially strong.
Four out of 10 respondents (39%) expect prices to rise, but by less than 5%. In the past three months, 10% of firms report hiring at least one employee. 9% of respondents indicated that their firm will increase employment over the next three months. This is a positive improvement from the 4% that reported such intentions in the previous quarter. While overall survey results show a backsliding in the industry at the end of 2011, firms with between two and nine employees finished 2011 on a strong note, posting an index of 60.2.
Designers Are Optimistic About 2012: Although the ASID Billings Index ended the quarter below 50, ASID firms expect business conditions to be better in the future. In December, the ASID Business Outlook Index was 74.3, up from the prior quarter's index of 56.4.
"Economic growth is solid but not spectacular," said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for ASID. "However, modest improvements in the broader economy, combined with the positive trend in inquiries could signal a more promising 2012."
Launched in November 2010, The ASID business performance index tracks performance data for billings, inquiries and product sales specific to the interior design industry. The index is based on a monthly survey of 300 firms and provides a tailored perspective on billings, business conditions and economic outlook. The results are compiled into diffusion indexes centered on 50, with scores above 50 indicating an increase in billings, and scores below 50 indicating a decline.