As damaging as it was, the recession could not stop the growth of the healthcare vertical. New healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and urgent care centers are being built everyday, largely due to an aging population.

Many distributors have been able to take advantage of the market’s requirements for proper sanitation and hygiene and turn that into sales.

In fact, healthcare accounted for nearly 15 percent of distributors’ sales, making it the highest proportion of sales per market segment, followed by industrial clients (14.6 percent), contract cleaners (14.5 percent) and educational facilities (13.7 percent). This is quite a change from 2010, when contract cleaners represented the largest percentage of distributors’ sales, and healthcare was ranked fourth at 13.3 percent.

“The healthcare industry is held to different standards, and how they are reimbursed for those standards,” says Silverman. “They are not going to be paid if staves of people (contract) hospital acquired infections. It’s important for them to understand cleaning, and how to clean properly. Our healthcare customers are growing and we are growing with them.”

A few other segments continue to shrink, including hospitality (down to 3.4 percent from 4.7 percent in 2010) and commercial offices (dipping to 6.7 percent from 8.3 percent in 2010); or have maintained 2010 levels (recreation 3.6 percent).

However, there are some bright signs ahead. According to our study, the restaurant and retail markets have rebounded from their positions in 2010,  placing them at 6.8 percent (from 5.1 percent) and 7.9 percent (from 5.7 percent), respectively.    

Surely macro-economic conditions, including lower unemployment rates, increased consumer spending and greater attention to the dangers of foodborne illness, have nudged these numbers higher.

Though the uncertainty over the upcoming Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative continues to mar the future of governmental contracts, the segment grew more than a full percentage point, from 7.0 percent in 2010, to 8.4 percent in 2012.

“A lot of this had to do with budgets bouncing back — the recession took a lot of time,” says Trombetta. “I don’t know if it’s so much that we are growing, or if people are slowing understanding how important cleaning is. In conversations we’ve had with members, more recently, they are up (sales wise) five to 10 percent. We’re definitely bouncing back.”

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