UK and Ireland distributors have reported strong billings and bookings growth in March 2021. Adam Fletcher, Chairman of the Electronic Components Supply Network (ecsn) welcomed the uptick in Bookings and Billings activity as customers realign their order book in-line with extending manufacturer lead-times.

Total Monthly Billings in March ’21 increased by 35% when compared to the previous month and by 11% when compared to the same month 2020.  Overall Bookings rose 38% when compared to February ‘21 and by 59% over the same month last year.

The Sales by Month “three month moving average” for all electronic components suggests modest growth into the first half of the year, albeit lower than historical norms due to the current economic situation.

At 1.47:1 the Book-to-Bill (B2B) ratio in March ‘21 remained elevated over the preceding month, driven by the very strong Bookings growth (see graphic) but Fletcher believes that that Q1’21 figures are being skewed by customer order placement activity.

He cautioned that “probably around 80% of the growth is merely a reflection of extending manufacturer lead-times and customers’ response to tighter supply”.

Aubrey Dunford, ecsn Market Analyst commented: “The Book-to-Bill data is very much in line with our expectations given the well-publicised capacity issues in the global electronic components supply network, especially in semiconductors. However, history has taught us that more important is the underlying demand which is more difficult to see.”

The association’s members have seen little improvement in the “vague” forecasting their UK and Ireland customers have been able to deliver in the last few years, but in the meantime they continue to manage their inventory investment carefully based on their best estimates of the real underlying customer demand.

“Anecdotal indications do point to real underlying growth of circa 10% in the current year but I think it’s unlikely that 2021 will see our members’ performance return to the historical trend of strong Billings growth in the first half of the year”, Fletcher said.

In conclusion Fletcher added that “Country of Origin” rules continue to pose problems for UK companies exporting components from the UK into the EU.

“Governments must get a grip on this issue or risk seriously disadvantaging authorised distributors who do not have EU based operations to support their customers based outside the UK and vice versa,” he warned.


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