One of the largest annual surveys that collects bottom-line numbers from dealers nationwide suggests building material suppliers last year posted their first operating profit since at least 2008.

The Building Material Operations Comparison (BMOC) report found that the roughly 150 reporting dealers posted average operating income of $70,971 in 2012, rebounding from operating losses of $176,820 in 2011, $228,882 in 2010 and $1.5 million in 2009. The turnaround came even though average sales dipped to $16.5 million in 2012 from $16.9 million in 2011. Sales in 2010 also stood at $16.5 million, while 2009's sales averaged $26.5 million.

BMOC is an annual project of the Construction Suppliers Association (CSA), the main dealer trade group for Georgia and Alabama, with promotional assistance from regional LBM groups across the country. Participating dealers tend to come from smaller towns and less urban areas rather than metro communities and high-population states. While the participants responding do vary from year to year, many of the same companies tend to take part each time, so the results give a relatively consistent view of at least one cohort of dealers.

According to the survey, the average dealer recorded a gross profit of $4.2 million last year. Gross margin as a percentage of sales inched up to 26% in 2012 from 25.3% in 2011 but remained below 2010's 26.2% and 2009's 27.5%. Operating expenses as a percentage of sales declined to 25.5% from 27.2% in 2011, 28% in 2010 and 30.8% in 2009.

EBITDA—earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization—totaled $503,246, nearly double the $288,474 collected in 2011. No net profit figures were collected.

To buy a copy of the BMOC report, contact your regional LBM association or e-mail CSA's Jim Moody at