Interior Design Firms Report Solid Billings to End 2014

March 17, 2015

 U.S. interior design firms ended 2014 with continued but slowed business improvement, according to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Interior Design Billings Index (IDBI). 

The index registered 52.3 at the end of 4th Quarter 2014, compared to the 60.5 registered at the end of the 3rd Quarter. However, the index has remained above 50 – the baseline score indicating growth – for eight consecutive quarters.

Both large and small firms reported year-end billings increases as 2014 drew to a close. Sole practitioners, however, scored below 50 (47.7) for the second consecutive month.

Residential billings outpace commercial sector

Greater distinctions in billings are found in market segment reporting. Design firms specializing in single-family and multifamily residential real estate reported growth at year end, with scores of 53.4 and 53.5, respectively. The average annual IDBI score improved from 51 in 2013, to 54 in 2014, demonstrating positive momentum.

The pace of growth improved for the Office sector during 2014, with IDBI scores above 50 in seven out of 12 months. On the other hand, the specialization areas of retail, entertainment, hospitality, healthcare, government and education had erratic performance and underperformed. In fact, billings for firms specializing in entertainment and hospitality reported a decline in billings for 10 out of 12 months in 2014, with average annual scores in the mid-40s.

At year’s end, design firms in both the residential and contract segments voiced positive expectations for the first six months of 2015, with 97 percent of survey participants anticipating steady or improving business conditions.

Midwest sees accelerated growth

Design firms located in the Midwest region reported accelerated growth in both November and December. While firm billings in the South were well above 50 in the fourth quarter, their pace has slowed from the prior quarter. Business conditions remained weak for firms located in the Northeast and West as indexes dipped below 50. Some of the weakness may be attributed to the slower pace of housing demand in recent months.

Six month outlook – stronger business conditions expected

Looking forward, the design industry remains positive in its outlook. The six-month business conditions index score of 72.3 for December – six points higher than December 2013 — suggests continued expansion.

“The industry ended 2014 on solid footing as design firms experienced supportive business conditions,” said ASID economist Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D. “The economic fundamentals for the broad economy are supportive and upbeat with continued job growth and with stronger consumer and business confidence that should support more spending. With the economy shifting into a higher gear, the design industry should experience expanded activity.”