The specialist sector experienced encouraging signs of growth in the first quarter of 2014 according to the latest National Specialist Contractors’ Council State of Trade survey.
The number of specialist contractors reporting an increase in enquiries rose to 59%, the highest figure for over 15 years.
The increased level of enquiries also translated into more orders, with 50% of respondents reporting an increase since the last quarter, which is 23% up on this time last year.
As a result, specialist contractors are feeling more positive about the future than they have for some time. The report shows that 54% anticipate their workload increasing over the next quarter and 71% expect to see an increase over the next year, the highest result ever recorded by the survey.
Late payment is still a major issue for specialist contractors with just 14% of respondents reporting that they were paid within 30 days and 63% waiting between 30 and 60 days for their money.
Most worryingly, 23% indicated it took between 60 and 90 days to receive payment, well above the five-year average for the survey.
Fair payment is vital to the continued long-term success of the sector and NSCC played a major role in the development of the new Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter, which sets out a commitment to 30-day payment terms and no retention by 2025.
NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see that enquiries and orders have increased significantly for specialist contractors in the last quarter and the latest NSCC State of Trade report is generally a cause for optimism across the board. Nevertheless, the figures on payment show that there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to making fair payment a reality throughout the industry and it is important that we keep working together on this.”
NSCC contributes its findings to the State of Trade Survey published by the Construction Products Association, enabling the experiences of the specialist sector to be compared with the wider industry.