U.S. companies will spend 6.4% more on raw or processed materials in the second quarter than they did in the first quarter, according to American Express Co.’s (NYSE:AXP) first-ever survey of global business-to-business (B2B) expenditures.
The survey, conducted across six countries with the Centre for Business and Economic Research, underscores the continued ramp-up in commodities demand and prices that have affected almost every industry here and abroad. B2B spending on such essential materials as chemicals, metals and lumber rose 7.5% from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021. First-quarter spending rose 6.2% over the same period in 2020, according to the survey. These were all by far the largest percentage increases among the nine spending subcategories tracked by the survey.
U.S. businesses expect to increase their second-quarter B2B spending by 3.4% compared to the same period in 2020, the survey found. B2B activity virtually flatlined during the 2020 period as many businesses shut down during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 3,600 businesses surveyed within the six countries expect their second-quarter B2B spend to increase 3.1% from the first quarter, according to the survey’s findings.
American Express surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. financial executives, a bit more than 30% of the total survey universe. The other countries in the survey were the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Japan. The survey, which is expected to be conducted quarterly, covered domestic and international spending among businesses in all six countries.
About three-quarters of U.S. businesses were optimistic about B2B spending activity over the next 12 months, the highest rate of bullishness among the six surveyed countries. U.S. businesses lead the way in automating B2B payments, with 46% expecting to automate, or further automate, their payables and receivables processes during that time, the survey found.
COVID-19’s massive overhang was evident in how U.S. firms restructured their supply chains in the past year. About 23% reported that they “simplified” their network of suppliers and took steps to reduce or avoid long-term purchase commitments with vendors. Approximately 22% said they chose suppliers that offered more flexible payments. The push to gain more flexibility and reduce the size and complexity of supplier universes is likely a secular trend, the report’s authors found.
With the incredible surge in online buying post-pandemic, much attention has focused on the business-to-consumer segment. Yet it’s hard to imagine the U.S. economy regaining sustainable momentum without the contributions from the B2B space. According to the Centre for Business and Economic Research, B2B transactions account for 48 cents of each dollar spent in the U.S. economy.