Trying to forecast economic demand for your company's products during a pandemic isn't something they teach in business school.
For Richard Hendrickson, the CEO of blow molder Lifetime Products Inc., it's a complex picture.
As government coronavirus shelter-in-place orders expand, demand for many of the company's plastics products used in the home, such as for recreation and backyard storage, are holding steady or in some cases growing.
But he's also trying to figure out if that demand will continue, and he wonders if the economy is at a transition point — if concern about the virus and larger economic impacts will cause more pullbacks in spending.
Hendrickson has been posting detailed updates on social media, letting employees and others know what's going on both with sales and with the steps the company is taking to protect employees and shore up its factories against the virus.
So far, sales for things the Clearfield, Utah-based firm makes for the home are holding up, items like plastic lawn and garden equipment, coolers and tables and chairs.
As well, as people shop online, internet sales for playsets have been "far above demand" and the company's been working to catch up to orders for sheds, he said in a March 24 update.
But in a March 26 interview, he also thinks the region could be approaching a transition point for the overall economy.
"With the stay at home orders, and when travel decreases, a lot of our product families do okay, while people stay at home," he said. "But that's only to a certain point. And when the economy gets to a certain level, even people staying at home aren't buying anything.
"I would imagine you and I are having this conversation right on the edge of where we start to see some of that demand soften because of society's transition in the way we're treating this," he said. "And then I think there'll be a pretty good rebound, but I think the worst is yet to come."