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Chemical Business Association News

Our Trends Survey Shows an Improving Trend but Outlook Hit by Supply Chain Issues

21 June 2021

Our latest Supply Chain Trends Survey shows an improving trend in order books, current sales, and margins but a negative business outlook for the next three months.  The survey highlights the key supply chain issues resulting in lower future sales and margins – a shortage of shipping containers, rising shipping costs, and a shortage of road haulage capacity in the UK and European Union.

Tim Doggett, The Chemical Business Association’s Chief Executive, said, “The current business situation has improved over the last three months, but most member companies are reporting serious issues in the international supply chain resulting in significant delays, logistical gridlock, and massively increased shipping costs. This is compounded by the chronic shortage of HGV drivers aggravated by the combined impact of Brexit and Covid-19.”

Our on-line Supply Chain Trends Survey was conducted between 8-18 June 2021 and is based on responses from 72 member companies. The survey was also available on Linkedin.


The Supply Chain Trends Survey asks companies to provide information on order books, sales, sales margins, and employment, on a ‘better–worse–same’ basis. The current survey included four additional questions on current supply chain constraints. To measure short-term trends, the analysis ignores responses answering ‘same’ and focuses on the positive or negative balance provided by the difference between the ‘better-worse’ responses.


Members are asked if their order books have been better, worse, or the same during the last three months since March 2021. The current survey shows a positive balance of +35% in the strength of order books – an improvement of +21% since the last survey in March 2021

  • SALES VOLUMES – Current sales rising; future sales forecast to fall

Respondents compare their current sales volumes with the preceding three months and indicate their expectations for the next three months. Current sales volumes have risen over the last three months, showing a positive balance of +43% (March 2021, +26%).  The trend for the next three months is significantly weaker: showing a positive balance of +6% – a fall of 24% on the figure reported in Mach 2021.

  • SALES MARGINS – Current margins improving; forecast margins turn negative

Companies compare their current sales margins with the preceding three months and forecast their trend over the coming three months.  Current sales margins have moved into positive territory at +11% a survey-to-survey improvement of 39%. Future sales margins are forecast to decline stage in the next three months a show a negative result of -15% in comparison to the +6% reported in March 2021.

  • EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING – Continued improvement

Member companies are asked if their employment levels will be higher, lower, or remain the same over the next three months.  The employment trend shows a continued improvement with a positive balance of +35% (March 2021, +33%).

  • SUPPLY CHAIN CONSTRAINTS – Worsening and becoming acute

Some 85% of our member companies surveyed report shortages of shipping containers; 90% report rapidly escalating shipping costs; and 62% report capacity issues with road haulage in the UK, with 76% reporting similar constraints in the European Union.

Further information from:
Tim Doggett Chemical Business Association,  Chief Executive
01270 258200

(1)          CBA’s Supply Chain Trends Survey has been published since 2003 and aims to provide a
snapshot of short-term trends in the UK’s chemical supply chain.

(2)          CBA represents the independent chemical supply chain.  Its membership includes distributors, traders, warehouse operators, along with logistics and transport companies.  CBA’s members, the majority of which are SMEs, are the main industry interface with thousands of UK downstream chemical users.

(3)          CBA’s distributor member companies have an annual turnover of £2.75 billion and employ more than 8,700 people distributing, packing, and blending key chemical components and services to virtually every sector of the UK economy.   CBA’s logistics member companies handle more than four million tonnes of chemicals evefry year.

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