Unprecedented. No doubt, you have heard this word over and over again the past five months, and for good reason. It perfectly describes the impact a global pandemic has had on our nation.
COVID-19 could not hold back pest management professionals (PMPs) from protecting the public’s health and property, however. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security deemed pest control an essential business, so PMPs had the authority to continue servicing residential and commercial customers during state-mandated quarantines. Most services were limited to exterior treatments, as most hotels and restaurants closed and homeowners kept technicians outdoors.
“Pest control was deemed essential by the local and state authorities, so we have been working throughout the stay-at-home order,” says Kerry Rose, senior technician for Absolute Pest Elimination in Cypress, Texas. “Restaurants that were able to do takeout business have been treated, and so have residences for customers who wanted service. In fact, a good number of customers who have not been on regular treatment schedules have been calling for treatments.”
This summer, Mother Nature appears to be rewarding PMPs for their patience and perseverance.
PEST PRESSURE ON THE RISE
From Florida to Oklahoma, news reports advise of increasing termite activity due to warmer and wetter weather than usual. Pest Management Professional (PMP) asked readers in an online Summer 2020 Pest Control Survey last month to weigh in on their top revenue-generating pests this season.
As expected, ants top the list (the survey was created to gauge summer activity). Rodents follow, which is also no surprise — news reports and videos during the coronavirus pandemic show rats scavenging for food that had been plentiful when restaurants and bars were open to customers. Indeed, the need for rodent control in urban areas such as New Orleans, La.; Baltimore, Md.; New York City and Washington, D.C.; was made visibly apparent worldwide.
Cockroaches are expected to be a top revenue generator this summer, and the reopening of workplaces, bars and restaurants in most states could not have happened at a better time. Now, PMPs can get back to indoor inspections and treatments, while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Other top pests projected to generate the most revenue this summer include mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, flies and wildlife. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, PMPs have been treating their customers’ yards and exterior perimeters.
Marty Jones, co-owner of Prestige Pest Control in Pooler, Ga., says his company has been pushing mosquito control and bundled service packages. He reports that both tactics are prompting customers to sign up.
Projected Top Revenue-Generating Pests This Summer
- Bed bugs
- Fleas and ticks
- Other pests
Customers who have been sequestered in their homes have noticed the pests they didn’t know they had, and that’s been good for pest control businesses across the country.
Billy Blasingame, owner of Blasingame Pest Management in Locust Grove, Ga., says it’s been business as usual and adds, “We haven’t experienced a drop-off.”
When asked to compare their first-quarter revenue from 2020 with their first-quarter revenue from 2019, 63 percent of PMPs who answered our survey said revenue was up from January through March. Granted, many states did not issue quarantine orders until mid-March, so it’s no wonder revenue was strong at the beginning of the year. But how will PMPs fare for the rest of 2020?
As it turns out, slightly more than half expect second-quarter revenue to climb, compared with last year’s second-quarter revenue. Many restaurants and other businesses remained closed in April and May, but by June, many gradually reopened across the country. Finally, PMPs can regain access to hotels, daycares and other businesses that had been shuttered for weeks.
“Residential never slowed down, and commercial should be returning soon,” reports Bryan Cooksey III, CEO of McCall Service in Jacksonville, Fla. “Once the economy reopens, we expect a surge in business from those who skipped services.”
The positive projections continue, as 70 percent of the PMPs who responded to PMP’s Summer 2020 Pest Control Survey believe third-quarter revenue — July through September — will be higher than revenue recorded for the same period in 2019.
READY TO HIRE
PMPs who expect revenue to rise say they are getting ready for the business. The majority of respondents share they are hiring and training technicians for the work ahead. Several are cross-training technicians to take on multiple service calls. Some say they hired temporary and part-time workers to handle the additional work they expect.
Michael Broder, president of BHB Pest Elimination in New York City, says his company is enhancing its ability to take phone calls during off-hours and set up appointments for new customers. Others are taking the opportunity to make sure equipment is ready, and servicing their vehicles.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
To meet the strong demand for treatments this summer, many are stocking up on pest control products and personal protective equipment (PPE). Andy Yant, president of PEST Inc. in Goodlettsville, Tenn., says he is preparing his staff for the increased workload, and making sure the company has the materials and supplies they need in inventory.
PPE has been in short supply across the country for citizens seeking to adhere to state policies to wear masks, and companies aiming to protect workers who come in contact with customers.
When asked what resources they would need more of this summer, technicians ranked No. 1, followed closely by PPE. Face masks and shields, goggles and gloves, respirator cartridges, and disposable jumpsuits and boot covers all ranked high. Although many pest control product labels state the need for PPE regardless of whether a pandemic is in full swing, PMPs don additional gear to show their customers they care about safety.
Read more: 5 steps for respirator safety
Top Items PMPs Need More of for Summer’s Bounce Back
- N95 face masks
- Respirator cartridges
- Chemical-resistant protective gloves
- Pest control chemicals
- Disposable jumpsuits and boot covers
- Goggles and face shields
- Rodent control solutions
- Spray equipment
- Fogging equipment
NEW ADD-ON SERVICE
COVID-19 has provided some PMPs with a new service offering — sanitizing and disinfecting — and for that, PPE is essential. Although three-fourths of respondents do not provide this add-on service, those who do say business is brisk, particularly with commercial customers. The products, for which a pest control license is needed, reduce or kill the organisms listed on the label. For many customers, these services provide peace of mind.
“We are swamped with disinfecting jobs,” says Andrew Burger, president of “Bugs” Burger Bug Killers (B.B.B.K.) in Miami, Fla. “The need for the pest control industry to take the lead in disinfecting the country is paramount. B.B.B.K. is building recurring revenue routes on a monthly, weekly and even daily disinfecting basis.”
Read more: BBBK introduces ‘Corona Two-Step’ service
Because it’s simply one more way to protect public health, sanitizing and disinfecting services may remain an add-on service for many PMPs who have kept busy offering it to customers since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We embraced these treatments as good business,” says Jim Harmon, CEO of California Pest Management in La Verne, Calif. “Our clientele will be coming back online in the next 60 days, so we will have a lot of work to do to get them cleaned up.”
One thing seems certain: It will be a busy summer for PMPs.
“We had been planning for a big summer all year, so we had hired and routed appropriately,” says Brian Goldman, CEO of Big Blue Bug Solutions in Providence, R.I. “If everyone stays healthy, then we will be well-equipped to handle it.”
- 5 factors for added protection when offering new services
- More PMPs debut sanitization and disinfection services
Read more COVID-19 coverage here: MyPMP.net/COVID-19