Connector sales growth in some sectors belies a tough year ahead, says ITSA
13 November 2020
YTD, ITSA member sales are down 9% YoY, and while the medical sector remains “healthy”, fibre sales are down 37%. "ITSA represents UK connector & component companies supplying the UK electronics industry. Since connectors of all types are fundamental to virtually every technology-based product or system, what ITSA members are experiencing is a pretty accurate barometer of how the UK electronics industry is doing in these unprecedented times," said ITSA Chairman, John Biggs.
Back in August, ITSA reported that, while the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown had many positive benefits, the pandemic would continue to have an ongoing and negative impact on the UK electronics industry. Just over three months later, the numbers reported by ITSA members for the third quarter clearly demonstrate how significant the impact has been. News that a vaccine could be available by the end of the year was a single major plus in these difficult times.
The other issues creating concern in August were Brexit and the continuing tensions between the US and China. Either a deal or a no-deal Brexit still remains possible, but we are hopeful that the US election result will be a positive step towards improving the relationship between Washington and Beijing. Hopefully, there will be some positive news from these developments.
On a less positive note, forecasts compiled by the Government show the average prediction for this year’s UK GDP is now -10.1%, with unemployment expected to hit 8.3% by the end of the year, and only improving to 6.6% by the close of next year. The figures also show that the UK economy is expected to rebound by only 6.5% in 2021.
ITSA Members report sales down 9% YTD
According to ITSA Chairman John Biggs, its members sales were down 9% YTD when compared to 2019. “Of bigger concern is the fact that orders are down 19% and book to bill is down at 0.83:1,” said Biggs. “This will inevitably lead to lower revenues in Q4 and beyond, and also reflects the fact that members are not enjoying long term order schedules. Member’s export revenues are only down by 5%, but orders are down a huge 22%,” adds Biggs.
Medical & value add solutions grow
Sectors that have shown good billings include medical, with members reporting an 83% increase, while value added solutions have shown positive signs during the last quarter at 7% growth. According to ITSA, this should be looked at in conjunction with pure product sales, as there is a definite trend of moving from component sales to solution sales.
The communications sector was up by 37% which, in ITSA’s opinion, reflects the need for more bandwidth for home and remote working. Test & measurement, which links very closely to communications and medical, was up by 51%.
Broadcast really suffered in Q3, running at 50% of last year’s rate. With no end in sight for restrictions on concerts, outdoor festivals, theatres and so on, this market will continue to struggle.
One of the largest ITSA member markets is mil/aero, which accounts for 30% of member sales, and has only shrunk by 5%. However, distribution, which accounts for 33% of sales, is showing a drop of 20%.
UK manufacturing recovered in Q3
According to figures published by IHS MARKIT/CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI, the UK manufacturing sector continued to recover in September, with a PMI of 54.1. Output and new orders increased as intake improved from both domestic and overseas markets. Output increased for the fourth consecutive month albeit slightly lower than August.
This improvement was driven by many economies around the world reopening from lockdowns due to COVID-19 (this may well reverse very quickly in light of the alarming spike in new COVID-19 cases around the world and the introduction of new lockdowns).
Increases in inbound costs are driving manufacturers to increase selling prices; the main reasons here are higher raw material costs, which saw gold up over 21% YTD.
Most manufacturers maintained a positive outlook for the year ahead, with 60% expecting output to be higher in 12 months from now. This optimism has to be tempered in view of the escalating COVID-19 spike and further local and national lockdowns.
The Association’s origin can be traced right back to the early 1980s, when it was fashionable to include specific interest groups within the Electronic Components Industry Federation or ECIF. Being fundamental to everything that is technology-based, interconnection was a natural choice for an interest group, and so the Connector Manufacturers Association (CMA) was established.
Through several changes, the CMA became the Interconnection Business Forum or IBF, which itself stopped functioning around 2005. In 2008, ITSA was formed by several ex CMA and IBF members as the British Connector Manufacturers Association (BCMA), and was relaunched in 2017 as the Interconnect Technology Suppliers Association (ITSA) to more accurately reflect the activities of its members. It is the only dedicated trade industry body for interconnect technology companies operating in the UK.
ITSA has a presence on several standards bodies, where the aim is to influence both current and future changes to standards affecting the interconnection sector. These include the appropriate BSI standards committees, as well as RoHS compliance and exemption groups, like the Oko Institute and the RoHS umbrella group.
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