As with most industries, the pro-AV installation sector has faced tumultuous times since the pandemic began two years ago. From new Covid variants to supply chain issues to lockdowns, the challenges have been many, and often disheartening at that. However, there have also been successes and, increasingly, signs that the industry is rebounding and moving forward.
At October’s InfoComm 2021 US trade show, held by ISE partner AVIXA in Orlando, Florida, those signs were readily apparent as the industry reconvened to get on with the business of its business. While understandably not at pre-Covid heights, the convention was busy and far better attended than widely expected, with hundreds of exhibitors and more than 14,000 attendees who came to see new products, make and maintain industry relationships, develop their careers through education courses and events, and more. InfoComm, ISE and conventions like it are proving to be a bellwether that things are coming back, while also providing integrators, manufacturers and others an opportunity to compare notes face-to-face.
One of the most prevalent observations among integrators and designers is that they are in fact rather busy, with projects that had been delayed or slowed due to the pandemic now back up to speed, while new work continues to come in. While many initially spent much of the pandemic quickly developing remote meeting and communications systems for clients or reworking existing projects to better meet rapidly evolving Covid regulations, now more traditional in-person projects are increasingly coming back into the mix.
The main concern remains supply chain issues, in a large part due to worldwide computer chip shortages, though they’ve been exacerbated in the US by bottlenecks at major shipping ports. The result has made project planning a nightmare as it’s difficult to know when products will be in stock or how much they will cost, as scarcity has led to some inflation, eating into margins. Back-ups at US ports have eased somewhat since InfoComm, resulting in improved delivery times for some products, but are not completely back to normal yet.
Looking ahead to 2022, pro AV is expected to follow the worldwide trend of returning to in-person workplaces and public spaces, as spending in that sector picks up. While Covid restrictions continue to cede and recede as variants come and go, in-person-centric projects are expected to help industry sales keep growing in the coming year. With the number of Covid cases likely to drop once again during the warmer months, this winter may well see planning and development for spring and summer projects keep apace despite current conditions.