Survey Sees Continued Growth Among Manufacturers and Distributors

July 31, 2012

A new survey of U.S. manufacturers and distributors finds that while many business leaders remain concerned about economic uncertainty, health care costs, and hiring, they are experiencing success through controlling costs and increasing sales. Conducted by the accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen during the first quarter of 2012, the study found that six in 10 companies reported an increase in overall profitability over the past 12 months, while 22 percent experienced a decrease in overall profitability and 17 percent remained the same.


“Manufacturers and distributors have been facing these challenges for several years and have shown great resiliency,” says Erik Skie, CliftonLarsonAllen managing partner for manufacturing and distribution. “The current uncertainty is creating risks but also opportunities for forward-thinking leaders. Even smaller manufacturers are seeing opportunities beyond the U.S. market and are targeting exports for growth in the coming years.”

Among the findings of the 2012 Manufacturing and Distribution Outlook are:

  • Overall economic uncertainty remains a major challenge.
  • Health care costs are a significant concern.
  • Large companies need to find and keep good employees.
  • Increasing domestic sales is a major focal point.
  • Exports are up; more companies plan to export.
  • Energy-related tax incentives are popular.

Leaders surveyed are employing a number of strategies to remain viable and profitable:

  • Increasing domestic sales
  • Controlling costs and pricing
  • Operational efficiencies and cost reductions
  • Focusing on getting closer to customers
  • Seeking mergers and acquisitions

Respondents represent a wide variety of manufacturing and distribution industries, with 46 percent reporting revenue of less than $15 million. Twenty-nine percent have revenue between $15 million and $50 million, and 26 percent have revenue of more than $50 million. A total of 368 survey responses were received from 25 states.