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2020 Hindsight

Dec. 14, 2020
Everyone shares in the sense of frustration, and everyone longs for a return to normalcy.

As I sit down to write this, I’m having leftover pie from Thanksgiving for lunch. By the time you read this it will likely be only a few weeks until Christmas. And by the time the January issue of CONTRACTOR goes to press, 2020 will be in the record books.

And good riddance. Not to say that 2020 was all bad—because what year is? Life never stops for anything and plenty of people this year fell in love, got married, had kids, started businesses, got promoted. Right this instant someone somewhere in America is winning the lottery (either literally or figuratively). But looming over everything this year has been the deaths of more than 270,000 Americans—at a conservative count—due to COVID-19, and along with those deaths the attendant misery, hardship and economic devastation.

It can be difficult to believe. For one thing, who can wrap their head around that large a number? For another, unless you or someone you know has caught the virus (or unless you work in a hospital or nursing home), all you see are the locked restaurants, the empty stadiums, the passers-by in their masks. Everyone shares in the sense of frustration, and everyone longs for a return to normalcy.

And, luckily, it seems like an effective vaccine is on the way (probably more than one, in fact). It will take a while to ramp up production, and then the first in line will be our first responders, medical professionals, and those at high-risk for the disease. But right now, 2021 looks like the year things get back to normal.

Which doesn’t mean we come out of this unchanged. “Essential worker,” is now a part of the American vocabulary, and the skilled trades clearly fit that designation. How much this has shaped the public opinion of the trades—as regards the value they deliver to society, or their acceptance as a career path—remains to be seen, but I have to believe there are people out of work due to the pandemic who see plumbing & heating vans on jobs and think, “Hey, that guy is still working. Maybe I should look into that?”

COVID transmission happens more through aerosolized particles than through water, which means those on the HVAC/R side of the fence will probably see a good uptick in new business, particularly in installing UV or ionizing air cleaners. But plumbing companies don’t have to miss out. Those on the commercial side will see businesses moving to install touchless faucets and fixtures, and some going the extra step to eliminate gendered bathrooms and switch to single-occupancy bathrooms (you can read more about it our PMI20 session coverage).

On the residential side, the pandemic has placed a new emphasis on the home, not just as living space, but as office, classroom, gym and more. A lot of people in the coming year will be taking the money they didn’t spend on vacations or restaurants in 2020 and using it to upgrade their bathrooms and kitchens. The NKBA only just released its Q3 Kitchen & Bath Market Index which is at a high for the year, 61.9, up from 44.2 in Q2.

But maybe more important is the sense (difficult to quantify) of pent-up demand. This year the virus and our efforts to control it have been like a lead weight around the collective neck of Americans, businesspeople and consumers alike. 2021 might be the year we soar.

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