UK-based pest management journalist Frances McKim shares a round-up of global pest news.
While the darkest days of the pandemic seem to be behind us in Australia, much of the rest of the world is still operating under tough lockdown restrictions. In a vast number of countries, certainly in Europe and the US, those working within the pest industry have been classified as ‘essential’ or ‘key workers’, allowing pest operations to continue under tight Covid restrictions. Globally, the pest industry has weathered the storm remarkably well… so far. UK-based pest management journalist Frances McKim shares more insights below.
Disinfection services save the bottom line
Pest managers are renowned for their adaptability, so with the arrival of Covid-19 a range of disinfection activities were added to their services offered. For many, these disinfection activities made up for any losses in the traditional pest activities in domestic, or especially, hospitality accounts. At the end of January, Rollins (Orkin) for example, announced revenues for the year having risen by 7.2% to US$2.16 billion compared to US$2.01 billion the previous year.
Strong industry leadership
Across Europe and the US, pest control trade associations have provided first-class leadership and guidance, not only to their members but to the whole industry. Ian Andrew, CEO of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) explained, “The global pandemic was both a threat and an opportunity for pest management trade associations. BPCA grasped the opportunity to ensure the sector got recognition by UK governments as key workers as well as producing a rich resource of Covid support guidance and a swift switch to digital for its training and events activities.”
Tech takes the stage
Covid-19 has unquestionably accelerated existing trends within the industry. The use of technology has rocketed. This has included staff working from home and often running the whole business remotely. Staff training is no longer classroom-based. Everyone is a Zoom expert now! The safety of the technicians themselves has been a major concern in the UK and, initially, obtaining appropriate PPE was an issue. For those sites where access may be either difficult or undesirable, remote rodent monitoring systems have come into their own. For example, the UK-based supermarket chain Tesco signed what must be the largest connected pest control technology contract for tens of thousands of digital traps for the majority of its estate, covering 4,000 stores in the UK alone.
Virtual events, such as PestWorld 2020 and the Global Bed Bug Summit in the US, Disinfestando in Italy and the FAOPMA Pest Summit, have proven to be excellent, with the conference presentations available online after the events. However, the lack of opportunity for personal interaction and networking has been a blow to the industry.
As Dominique Stumpf, CEO of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) in the US commented, “The reality is that the pest management industry is a ‘people’ industry. We know our members miss seeing their peers at key events, such as PestWorld, and rely on face-to-face gatherings to build valuable relationships and share insights with each other.”
In November 2021, NPMA is going ahead with PestWorld 2021 in Las Vegas (main image, above). Meanwhile in France, Parasitec will be held in Paris. Both events are face-to-face. Quite how many international delegates will be able to attend only time, and the global vaccination program, will tell.
Commercial sector decline
Whilst the UK pest industry has fared surprisingly well, prospects for the future are only cautiously optimistic. Several leading UK retail chains have ceased operations as trade has been captured by the online traders. To add to this, Brexit is causing significant problems. None of this is good for business. Commercial pest control is bread and butter business for many pest managers, so without cafes, bars and retail stores to service, tough times likely lie ahead.
In Europe, the majority of hospitality venues will have been closed for approaching a year. In Spain and Greece particularly – countries that rely heavily on the tourism industry – the outlook is bleak following a very slow rollout of the vaccination program across the continent.
Some positive news is that company mergers and acquisitions look set to flourish, especially by the ‘big four’, namely Rentokil, Rollins, Anticimex and Terminix. Their activities came to a resounding halt when Covid-19 first hit, then virtually a whole year’s activities were crammed into the last quarter of 2020.
Rentokil alone has acquired eight prime companies in North America in Q4, with the purchase of Environmental Pest Service, ranked 15th in the PCT Top 100 companies, in the first few days of 2021. Pest managers looking to cash out of the industry may find that 2021 is a year of opportunity.