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Supply Chain Trends Survey- March 2020

17 March 2020


The latest Supply Chain Trends Survey from the Chemical Business Association shows a continuing positive trend for order books and current sales – though this trend is forecast to decline rapidly over the next three months. Sales Margins are neutral and are also forecast to decline in the immediate future. Employment and training trends remain positive.

CBA’s Chief Executive, Peter Newport said, “This Survey reveals an industry emerging from three years of Brexit uncertainty and just prior to it beginning to experience the measures to counter the coronavirus.”

“The cumulative impact of these measures will have a major impact on the chemical supply chain in the months to come and its ability to deliver critical chemical components to the UK manufacturing sector,” he added.

The CBA’s on-line Trends Survey was conducted during the two weeks from 4-17 March 2020 and is based on responses from 47 member companies.


CBA’s Supply Chain Trends Survey asks companies to provide information on order books, sales, sales margins, and employment, on a ‘better–worse–same’ basis. 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.

  • CURRENT ORDER BOOKS – Remain positive

Members are asked if their order books are better, worse, or the same than during the previous three months. The March survey shows a positive balance of +33% – an improvement from the +13% positive balance reported by CBA’s last survey in November 2019.

  • SALES VOLUMES – Improving but forecast to decline

Respondents compare their current sales volumes with the preceding three months and indicate their expectations for the next three months. Current sales volumes remain positive (+32%). This is a recovery from the balance of +12% reported in the November 2019 survey.  The outlook for the next three months, whilst remaining positive, shows a decline to +6% – a decline from +18% reported in our last survey.

  • SALES MARGINS – Currently neutral but continuing decline forecast

Companies compare their current sales margins with the preceding three months and forecast their trend over the coming three months. Current sales margins are now neutral (0%) and little changed from the +2% reported in the November survey. The outlook for future sales margins remains negative with -7% (-8% in November 2019) of companies expecting a continuing decline in the next three months.

  • EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING – Improving steadily

Member companies are asked if their employment levels will be higher, lower, or remain the same over the next three months. The trend for employment in the current survey shows an improvement to +13% from the record low level of +2% reported in the November 2019 survey. Member companies were also asked if their employment levels and investment in training would be higher, lower, or remain the same over the next three months. Trends for both employment (+28%) and training (+42%) remain firmly positive.


(1)        The Chemical Business Association (CBA) represents the independent chemical supply chain – 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.

(2)        CBA member companies employ more than 8,700 people. They distribute, pack, and blend over 4 million tonnes of chemicals each year with a market value of almost three billion euros. In addition, CBA’s logistics member companies handle more than four million tonnes of chemicals annually.

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