The coatings industry, which includes decorative paints, industrial coatings, printing inks and wallcoverings, has seen business confidence continue to improve as the economy recovers, according to the British Coatings Federation’s latest survey results. The BCF business confidence index figure is now 70.4, compared to 63.5 when this survey was conducted in Autumn last year, and 61.6 in the last survey conducted pre-COVID-19, in Autumn 2019. This contrasts with June 2020, when business confidence was at rock bottom during the first lockdown, with a BCF index of only 37.1.
The first five months of 2021 have delivered excellent sales results in both decorative and industrial coatings, caused by continued strong consumer demand for DIY products including paints and wallcoverings, and a buoyant manufacturing and construction industry recovery. Overall, UK paints and coatings sales were an impressive 24% higher than the same period in 2020.
Although the coatings sector is performing well, it is a different story for printing inks. Following a difficult 2020, with sales falling 16%, the outlook continues to be pessimistic, which is mainly due to the continued subdued demand for printed media. The latest survey highlights an expectation of poor results for printing inks during the rest of 2021.
BCF’s business confidence survey for Spring 2021, conducted in April and May this year, asked paint and printing ink manufacturers about their forecasts for 2021 compared with their results for 2020. In the latest survey, the results have improved and there has been a general shift upwards. The largest change is that a quarter of surveyed businesses are “very confident” about their performance. The improved result is not surprising given that in October 2020, the last survey period, the UK was approaching a tightening of restrictions over winter, whilst this latest survey was conducted when there was the prospect of further easing on the horizon.
Despite the more upbeat mood in the sector, the coatings industry continues to face ongoing raw material availability challenges and price increases across all sectors, as well as the regulatory uncertainty and red tape caused by the post-Brexit Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and UK REACH. The British Coatings Federation is currently in dialogue with UK Government to try to create a more pragmatic and proportionate approach to regulating chemicals in the UK.