Dealers nationwide continued to operate in the red during 2011, but the average operating loss improved by over $50,000 to $176,820, according to results released today of the latest Building Material Operations Comparison survey conducted by regional LBM associations.

Average net sales were $16.9 million, a 2% increase over last year’s average.  Gross margin averaged about 25.28% of net sales, or $4.2 million, down slightly from the year prior. Average total operating expenses averaged 27.22% of net sales, or $4.4 million, another slight drop from 2010.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) averaged out at $288,474, which accounted for 1.19% of net sales.

"2011 was slightly better than 2010 in terms of sales, but gross margin is down a bit," said Jim Moody, president of the Construction Suppliers Association (CSA), the regional LBM association for Georgia and Alabama, who led the information gathering process. "Many operational measures are pointing in the right direction, but overall variable expense is up slightly. Ultimately, the averages show another year of bouncing along the bottom."

He said about 150 dealers responded, up from the 100 who replied in 2011. Moody also said dealers from almost every state participated, but declined to list those that did not have a participant.

A copy of the full survey results is $500, but those who participated only have to pay $200 and get more substantial results. To purchase a copy, contact either your regional LBM association or e-mail Moody at