The ASID Interior Design Billings Index declined slightly in October–by half a point–but remained well into positive territory. The Index for October was 54.8, compared to 55.3 in September, marking 10 consecutive months of positive billings. The ASID Inquiries Index also was down by just a half point from September (59 vs. 59.5). Since last October, the Index has dropped into negative territory only once, in December 2011, and then only by half a point.
The AIA Index was up in both October (52.8) and November (53.2), and inquiries were up for both months as well, suggesting a positive trend for the fourth quarter.
Commercial Shows Some Improvement
Panelists reported notable increases in October billings over September in Office (51 vs. 48), Hospitality (52 vs. 43) and Healthcare (54 vs. 48) projects. Similar jumps were reported last October and may indicate a cyclical trend. The AIA Billings Index for November also reported movement upward in some commercial areas. Also similar to the AIA Index, the ASID Index shows declines in Institutional and Education, as well as Multihousing.
Single family residential, which has posted the strongest performance throughout the year, has contracted somewhat during the second half of 2012 but continues to be positive. The October figure fell a point compared to September (53 vs. 54) and has declined 5 points since bouncing back in August after a lull in July.
Activity Mixed Across Sectors
The contraction in residential projects may account for a decline in billings for sole practitioners as a group–down to 50.5 in October from a seasonal high of 55.8 in September. Small firms and large firms both reported increases (6 points and 7 points, respectively). Mid-sized firms were unusually low, which may be a result of weak reporting for the month.
Billings were mostly stable throughout the country. All regions reported positive billings, with an increase for the month in the Mid West and South but decline in the Northeast and West.
Designers More Cautious About 2013
When asked what operational or business problems were most affecting their business, most panelists had few complaints. About a third said poor sales or billings and delayed payments from clients were a problem, and nearly a third expressed concern about the cost or availability of affordable healthcare for their firm.
While consumer confidence and the Dodge Momentum indicator both increased in October, panelists were less optimistic about the short-term outlook for interior design services. The ASID indicator was down five points from September.
Throughout the year, panelists had expressed concern about the outcome of the national elections in November. Post-election, they were asked whether, in their opinion, their business would improve or get worse as a result. Panelists were evenly split in their views, with 29 percent saying their business would improve and 29 percent believing it will get worse. Most felt the results would not impact their business either way. Sole practitioners were slightly more likely to say the results would negatively impact their business, especially if taxes were to increase in 2013.