It’s a cool 91 degrees here in Syracuse today—cool, at least, compared to recent temperatures this summer, and cool compared to much of the country, parts of which are well over 100 degrees today. For some, the heat is merely a discomfort; for others it poses a serious safety risk. But could it also be bad for gases and welding distributors’ business?
After a strong performance out of the gate in 2012, several distributors I spoke with say that business has slowed down over the last month and a half.
Brad Peden, president at Arcmaster Supply in Fort Worth, TX (where temperatures are expected to reach 106 today), says, “Business was very good up until the first part of June, and then it tapered off. I don’t know whether it’s the summer heat or vacations or what, but everybody I’ve talked to in this area says the same thing.”
Further north in Madison, WI, Badger Welding Supplies Owner and President Scott Griskavich says the heat has likely been a factor. “Agriculture and construction have really been affected by the heat. The construction crews, roofing crews, they’re knocking off at noon on those 100-degree days. Nobody’s out in the fields. We had a 20-day stretch of 90-plus-degree weather. For Wisconsin, that’s insane.” He adds that shorter work hours mean workers are not consuming as much gas and other consumables.
Delta Gases (Maryland Heights, MO) VP Todd Linnenbringer has also seen a lull in business. He has heard some business owners say it’s the heat. “It’s been so hot, maybe customers haven’t been able to work full force on certain projects,” he says, adding, “I really don’t know what to attribute it to.”
At least in Tulsa, OK, where temperatures have been as high as 114 degrees over the past few days, news reports confirm that the heat is slowing down oil rig workers. Apache Corp tells The Oklahoman its employees are allowed to shut down the rigs and cool off whenever they need, for as long as they need. Most companies require employees to take frequent breaks.
If the heat is indeed to blame, is there anything distributors can do to battle the heat? “Pray for rain,” jokes Griskavich. More seriously, he says he’s adjusted his cylinder fillers’ schedules with their safety in mind. “We make sure to fill all the cylinders in the morning while it’s cool. If you start filling them in the afternoon, it could be 95 in the fill plant, and those things are radiating 130, 140 degrees.”
For distributors looking to offset the lull with new business, lightweight workwear may be a window of opportunity. At oil rig sites, OSHA requires workers to wear long-sleeved and long-pant flame-retardant clothing, heavy steel-toed boots and hard hats. Apache Corp VP Rob Johnston told the Oklahoman, “We’ve spared no expense trying to find the absolute lightest clothing available.”
However, the heat is only one suspect in this case. Another possible cause for slowing sales is the impending Presidential election. Says Linnenbringer, “Some people are saying it’s tied into the election, with customers waiting on projects to see who gets into office. Personally, I don’t see why that should change anything.”
If either the heat or the election is to blame, the good news is that both are temporary situations, meaning an end is in sight. As Linnenbringer puts it, “Hopefully it’s just a blip on the radar, and we can get back to being busy again.”
Has your business slowed this summer? How are you handling it?