The National Specialist Contractors' Council (NSCC) state of trade survey for the first quarter of 2014 found that 59% of specialist contractors reported an increase in enquiries, which is the highest it has been since the tail-end of the 20th century. The number reporting a decrease in enquiries fell to 15%.
The increased level of enquiries also translated into more orders, with 50% of respondents reporting an increase since the last quarter, which is 23% up on this time last year. With 24% reporting a decrease, the balance of orders is now at 26 points, which is the highest it has been since Q2 2007.
As a result, specialist contractors are feeling more positive about the future than they have for some time, the NSCC said. The report shows that 54% anticipate their workload increasing over the next quarter and 71% expect to see an increase over the next year, the highest result ever recorded by the survey.
80% of respondents reported an increase in suppliers’ prices, up from 71% last quarter. For the first time in since Q2 2008, no respondents indicated a decrease in suppliers’ prices.
Late payment is still a major issue with just 14% of respondents reporting that they were paid within 30 days and 63% waiting between 30 and 60 days for their money. 23% indicated it took between 60 and 90 days to receive payment, well above the five-year average for the survey.
NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see that enquiries and orders have increased significantly for specialist contractors in the last quarter and the latest NSCC state of trade report is generally a cause for optimism across the board. Nevertheless, the figures on payment show that there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to making fair payment a reality throughout the industry and it is important that we keep working together on this.”