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ProSales today released the 2009 edition of ProSales 100, an annual compilation that this year shows America's biggest construction supply companies collectively sold $28.5 billion worth of goods last year. That's 14.8% worse than in 2007 and roughly what they recorded five years ago, before the housing bubble. Only 15 companies rose in sales; 21 had declines exceeding 25%.

Ask a dealer on this year's ProSales 100 to list his company's greatest achievement in 2008, and more often than not you're likely to get a two-word answer: "We survived." ProSales 100 dealers shut 372 facilities--10.6% of their operations. The 50 biggest companies on this year's list that also took part in last year's survey cut their payrolls by 23% or close to 20,700 workers.

Survey data turned in by dealers nationwide revealed that ProSales 100 dealers shut 372 facilities. That's 10.6% of their operations. The 50 biggest companies on this year's list that also took part in last year's survey cut their payrolls by 23% or close to 20,700 workers, and seven of the 50 cut their payrolls by at least 40%.

The ProSales 100 is the premier report on construction supply companies that garner more than half their revenues from professional builders. Large operations that cater primarily to retail customers, such as The Home Depot, Lowe's and Menards, are excluded, thus making it possible to examine more accurately the pro-oriented side of the lumber and building material industry. Collectively, the 2009 ProSales 100 companies run 3,142 sales and production outlets across the country and employ roughly 75,500 workers.

For the third straight year, Denver-based ProBuild tops the list, despite experiencing a 12% decrease in total sales to $4.4 billion. Eighty-seven percent of ProBuild's sales are to construction professionals. Stock Building Supply, Raleigh, N.C., held on to second with $3.2 billion in overall sales (93% to pros) down 23.5%. ABC Supply of Beloit, Wis., passed 84 Lumber Co. of Eighty Four, Pa., for third place, while Beacon Roofing Supply, Peabody, Mass., moved ahead of Building Materials Holding Corp. (BMHC), Boise, Idaho, into fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Bradco Supply Corp., Avenel, N.J.; Builders FirstSource (BFS), Dallas; Carter Lumber co., Kent, Ohio; and McCoy's Building Supply, San Marcos, Texas. The top 10 dealers account for 69% of the entire ProSales 100's total sales, number of facilities, and number of employees. They also accounted for 367 of the closures; the bottom 90 companies shut just five locations.

The survey provided solid general evidence of several trends affecting construction supply companies. The first was the scramble by dealers to respond to the steep drop in housing starts from a 2.2 million annual rate early in 2006 to roughly 500,000 today. In our survey for 2006, ProSales 100 dealers said production builders accounted for 26% of their revenues. In the latest survey, production builders figured in only 11% of total sales.

The dealers are relying increasingly instead on small-builder, regional builder, commercial, and retail groups for their sales. Those who had organized their businesses to rely heaviest on production builders were among those falling the most: BMHC's sales sank 40.9% last year, the most of any ProSales 100 dealer, while BFS sales shrank 33.7%.

The 15 dealers that reported sales increases included ABC Supply, up 9.7%; Beacon Roofing Supply, up 8.4%; and Erie Materials of Syracuse, N.Y., up 7.5%. All focus on the sale of roofing materials rather than wood products.

Roughly 70% of the ProSales 100 members install products as well as sell them, most often windows, entry doors, and cabinetry. As well, 70% of the companies manufacture components. Prehung doors are the most popular component manufactured.