What to expect in 2010 remains unclear

By Tim Wright | December 23, 2009

The state of the global economy along with rising raw material and energy costs paints an uncertain future for the paint and coatings industry. While many industry insiders from raw material suppliers, paint manufacturers and consultants believe 2010 will be better than 2009, that's not saying much. And what exactly does better mean?

Throughout the coatings industry supply chain, the reins have been tightened. Personnel slashed, facilities boarded up and overall production slowed down. When first quarter figures are published it will be clearer if such cost cutting measures have helped keep heads above water.

While I don't think we'll see sales plummeting to double-digit depths like we did in 2009, it's unclear when the paint and coatings industry will return to the levels of profitability it enjoyed just a few years ago.

The fact is, it may well be a few more years longer than we'd like.

Industry is hinging on Asia-China in particular-to drive future growth. But with a domestic market that is not yet ready to support such ambitions, success in the region depends on the health of its export markets. So until the North American and Western European economies warm up don't look to China and the rest of Asia Pacific for the cure to industry's financial woes.

Industry insiders are cautiously optimistic that the market will revive slowly in the mature markets of North America and Western Europe as 2010 unfolds. By the time the paint and coatings industry gathers for the American Coatings Show in Charlotte, NC, April 13-15 we should have a good indication of how the year will shape up.

If 2009 will be remembered as the year of the great global economic crisis, hopefully, this time next year we remember 2010 as the year of the great global economic thaw.
Tim Wright