March saw a large rise in activity by distributors in the UK and Ireland according to the latest figures from the Electronic Components Supply Network (ecsn).

Total Monthly Billings in March increased by 35 percent compared to the previous month and by 11 percent when compared to the same month 2020.  Overall Bookings increased by 38 percent compared to February 2021 and by 59 percent on last year.

However the increases are more likely the result of the shortages in the semiconductor industry, warns Adam Fletcher, Chairman of ecsn.

The three month moving average for all electronic components suggests modest growth into the first half of the year, albeit lower than historical norms due to the current economic situation.

Fletcher believes that that Q1’21 figures are being skewed by customer order placement activity. He cautioned that “probably around 80 percent of the growth is merely a reflection of extending manufacturer lead-times and customers’ response to tighter supply,” he said.

“The Book-to-Bill data [of 1.47:1] is very much in line with our expectations given the well-publicised capacity issues in the global electronic components supply network, especially in semiconductors. However, history has taught us that more important is the underlying demand which is more difficult to see,” said Aubrey Dunford, ecsn Market Analyst.

The association’s members have also seen little improvement in what it called ‘vague’ forecasting from UK and Ireland customers “Anecdotal indications do point to real underlying growth of circa 10% in the current year but I think it’s unlikely that 2021 will see our members’ performance return to the historical trend of strong Billings growth in the first half of the year,” said Fletcher.

Country of Origin rules also  continue to pose problems for smaller UK distributors exporting components from the UK into the EU: “Governments must get a grip on this issue or risk seriously disadvantaging authorised distributors who do not have EU based operations to support their customers based outside the UK and vice versa,” he said.

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