The ASID Interior Design Billings Index inched up again in September, falling only slightly below the previous quarter’s mark. ASID firms reported positive growth in billings, posting an Index score of 55.3, compared to 53.4 in August and 56.5 in June. The Index has remained in positive territory now for nine consecutive months and for 11 of the past 12 months (with only a slight dip below positive last December). The Inquiry Index also rose from 58.8 in August to 59.5 in September.
The fluctuations in the Index between June and September may be due, at least in part, to seasonal patterns. The AIA Billings Index for September also pushed into positive territory, at 50.2, its best reading since April.
Residential Continues to Improve, Other Sectors Stay Flat
The residential sector continues to be the bright light for interior design in the current economy. Only ASID firms serving the residential sector showed consistent billing growth over the quarter. Although the multifamily residential sector was below 50 in July, it has rebounded during the past two months. The single family home market has experienced a steady increase, reporting a score of greater than 50 for each of the last nine months.
The news was not so good on the contract side. For the past quarter, all Commercial sectors have reported decreased billings. The Office, Retail, Entertainment, and Hospitality sectors have shown declines, reporting scores of less than 50. Although Institutional billings earlier in the year appeared to be healthy across all sectors, recent monthly scores of below 50 indicate revenues have fallen off.
Sole Practitioners Get a Boost
The stronger billing scores are from small firms with nine or fewer employees, with sole practitioners reporting a 5 point increase over August. These readings have been consistent since the beginning of 2012. Firms with greater than 9 employees are reporting no change in billings.
The pace of strong revenue gains continues for all regions on a year-to-date basis. Since January 2012, the Midwest, South and West regions have reported monthly billing increases. The Northeast has gained points in each of the past two months.
Outlook Positive, If Hazy
At present, both the short- and long-term outlook for the next six months appear positive, although growth is expected to be modest. Uncertainty, particularly related to the impact of the recent elections and the “fiscal cliff,” could slow growth in the 4th quarter of 2012 and possibly the 1st quarter of 2013.