Sales were even to higher for LBM dealers in south Atlantic Coast states during the first half of 2010 compared with the opening six months of the previous year, but often at thinner profit margins than were enjoyed at the end of last year, a recent Southern Building Material Association (SBMA) survey finds. It also revealed general optiimism for sales in this quarter and even more smiles for prospects in 2011.

The poll of 46 dealers in SBMA's service area of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee found 40% of the respondents reporting increased sales in the first half of the year, 35% no change and 25% fewer sales. On the other hand, only 22% reported increased margins in the first quarter of 2010 over the fourth quarter of 2009. Just under 49% said they were lower and 29% said margins were unchanged.

A robust 83% of respondents said they're seeing positive changes in their markets. Many noted that they are quoting more projects, especially for remodeling work, but said there are no easy pickings. "In our market there is work but you have to WORK to get the business," one dealer said.

Regarding future prospects, 36% of dealers saw good sales prospects in the current quarter from contractors and 21% saw the same good prospects from retail customers. Only 17% projected good sales from commercial clients.

Thirty-four percent of the dealers forecast 2010 would end up with higher sales than in 2009, while 45% predicted they would remain the same and 21% forecast a decrease. On the other hand, 64% predicted sales growth in 2011, 33% said it would stay the same and only 2% expected a decrease again next year.