For the AV Industry, Tough Times Aren’t Over Yet
The Impact Survey is a weekly assessment of pro AV industry trends, attitudes and perceptions in light of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.
- Pro AV isn’t out of the woods, with an uptick in the share of AV providers reporting a negative impact to their business over the past week.
- More companies say they’re cutting salaries, perhaps protecting the overall low share of permanent layoffs.
- End user customers begin to show signs of AV activity.
Even as more economies begin to open, pro AV business sentiment has appeared to take a turn for the worse. Maybe with the additional clarity that comes from seeing details of governments’ phased reopenings, AV professionals — especially AV providers — have a better idea of what’s ahead.
Having expected projected work to reboot in June, then July, the largest share of AV providers (23%) in AVIXA Market Intelligence’s COVID-19 Impact Survey, fielded May 26-27, now expect to resume project work in earnest in August, while 20% are eyeing September.
Said one AV provider, “At the earliest, there are a few rebookings for the fall, but even that is not realistic at this point.”
Overall, the share of AV providers in the latest survey citing a negative impact on their business over the prior week has risen to 66% from 61%, with the bulk of that increase coming from respondents in North America. Reports of staff reductions over the past seven days, which had been in decline, rose this week, with 15% of all AV provider respondents saying their companies had cut workforce since the last survey. The share of AV providers perceiving revenue decline over the past week is also up, to 43% from 40%.
And they continue to take measures to counter the ongoing revenue reductions. Looking back over this period of pandemic, 35% of AV providers who said their revenues had declined reported layoffs/furloughs, up from 31%, possibly reflecting the increase in providers reporting staff reductions over the past week. Companies still say the bulk of their staff reductions are in the form of furloughs, with a weighted average of just 18% coming in the form of permanent layoffs, although even that figure, too, has begun to tick up slightly.
Also, rather than laying off workers permanently, more companies are resorting to salary cuts. More than 40% of AV provider respondents said their companies are adjusting to revenue declines by reducing salaries, up from 31%.
“I am so proud to be a part of such an awesome organization,” said one AV provider. “In order to prevent having to do mass layoffs or similar, our executives making beyond a certain amount took a 50% pay cut. They did it without tooting their horns. They quietly did what they had to do, preserving the integrity of the company and without disrupting as many people as possible. That is a class act, and for that, I am extremely proud to be a part of this company.”
Overall, the share of AV providers in the latest survey citing a negative impact on their business over the prior week has risen to 66% from 61%, with the bulk of that increase coming from respondents in North America.
AV Pros Are Talking About Possible Projects
Looking for signs of life, resumption of projects appears the same as last week, while fresh inquiries are slowly increasing. Nearly 40% of all AV providers said they’d begun to resume projects over the last seven days, the same share as last week, and 43% reported more incoming inquiries, up from 40%.
“As some restrictions are beginning to be lifted in Australia, we are seeing a slight uptick in inquiries,” said one AV provider. “Unfortunately, the various states are not quite all singing from the same song book, so there are differing standards in place. The vast majority of our staff are still working from home and seem to be handling the isolation well. Our organization, being global, is keeping abreast of all of the advice being provided by the local governments and health authorities.”
Among a limited sample of live events professionals, 47% said they’ve seen more inquiries about their services, a notable jump from 33%. Still, live events companies continue to face challenges from the restrictions imposed by local governments worldwide, and 71% of the limited sample reported further revenue declines over the past week (versus 43% of all AV providers).
Said one live events professional in South America, “We see that many risky activities are being allowed, however events are still suspended …. In supermarkets and shopping malls, [now] many people can enter at once, but even small family gatherings or parties of up to 50 people are prohibited …. We could totally transform our company into a provider of fixed audiovisual solution, but we do not have the necessary capital or experience.”
"Live events companies continue to face challenges from the restrictions imposed by local governments worldwide"
End User Projects Thawing?
AV end users are showing signs of increased activity, which could be positive news: 35% of end user respondents reported resuming projects over the prior week, up from 30% in the last survey. Meanwhile, 13% of end users reported supply chain improvements (up for 9%) and 11% said their organizations had restarted some in-person meetings, a figure that was zero a month ago.
“We have been getting calls to schedule work, but no actual work yet,” said one AV end user.
“We continue to ramp operations back up,” said another.
“Some projects that were put on hold are back,” explained a third. “Other projects are dead.”
As always, when AV professionals inch back to work, they’re doing it safely. According to an AV end user respondent, “We’re beginning a phased return to in-person work safely, with enhanced social distancing rules, mask wearing, and cleaning efforts. This phased approach obviously depends on local requirements and rules, with each state or jurisdiction having its own specific rules.”
The next survey results will be released on June 5.
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