This is the time of year a majority of businesses are well into their 2024 planning. However, for our industry, one major question is: What should pest management professionals (PMPs) in particular be planning for with a potential recession, undetermined election year and global unrest in the air? While no one can earnestly see the future, history has proven pest control is, without question, a steady industry in any economic climate.
In reflection of 85 years in the pest industry, Truly Nolen has grown strong since emerging from the Great Depression, the grimmest of economic times. While it is still unwritten whether 2024 will fall into a recession or merely just a correction as optimists suspect, it still begs the question, “Should PMPs adjust business plans despite being touted as a recession-proof industry?”
The reality is people can forgo many luxuries, but living with pests is simply not one of them. Fear of spiders, and all pests by extension, is a human condition that safeguards our precious industry.
If you ask 100 people, “Would you rather spend the night without air conditioning in the middle of summer or with just a single bed bug?”; nearly all of them will gleefully pick the no air-conditioning option due to the human condition of fearing insects (just ask the Parisians). As a result of this human factor, the pest control industry has proven to be robust and resilient regardless of economic hardships.
Bugs do not pay attention to Bloomberg, elections, or global conflict. Rather, weather has the greatest impact to pest pressure. Weather patterns — temperature and moisture — drive business more than minor economic fluctuations. For this reason, PMPs may not need to make dramatic shifts to their business plans based on the anticipation of economic tides.
Even still, what might pest control operators anticipate? Nearly all reputable economists and even the occasional fortune teller are conservatively predicting a correction. In my opinion as an observer and business owner, I anticipate inflation slowing to near plateau but still increasing around two percent. These shifts, or even the anticipation of change, can impact the end customers’ mindset. Service providers should temper their price increases and consider payment plans on bigger ticket items. Furthermore, raising interest rates are already putting some pressure on the housing market and will continue to do so well into next year. I anticipate this not crashing, but rather slowing transactions. Service providers who target and rely on new homeowner lists should switch their tactics. Focusing on quality service and referrals has normally been a tried and true approach.
One silver lining to economic downturn is the growth of the industry’s potential. While some companies might look to lay off staff to survive economic tides, the pest control industry often benefits from talent looking for stability in their next career moves. This should come as a relief after the last few years following the Great Resignation and staffing challenges that we have all felt in the service community.
Although there seems to be clouds and rainy days ahead for businesses and the economy, thankfully there are many sunny days ahead for pest control.