A solid October for merchants

Total merchant sales in October were the highest since GfK began compiling BMBI sales data in July 2014 – a potential cause for celebration. However we cannot ignore likely the impact of inflation, with many sectors reporting substantial price increases over the past 12 months. That said, merchants significantly out-performed ONS Construction Output in October and show no sign of the predicted weaker autumn trading.

Year on Year
Total Builders’ merchant value sales were up 10.0% in October 2017 compared with October last year, helped by one additional trading day. Among top categories were Tools (+12.3%), Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+11.4%) and Heavy Building Materials (11.1%). All categories sold more this year and Heavy Building Materials (the largest category) and Timber & Joinery Products (second largest) saw their highest monthly sales to date. Average sales a day (which take account of trading days) were up 5.0% in October for merchants overall.

Month on month
One more trading day helped October sales increase by 5.0% compared with September. Tools (+7.9%) and Timber & Joinery Products (6.4%) were among four categories that did better than merchants generally. Seasonal category Landscaping (-1.2%) sold less. Average sales a day in October exceeded September by 0.3%. Eight categories sold more, including Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+2.2%).

Other periods
The latest three months (August to October) were 6.2% up on the same three months in 2016, with an equal number of trading days. Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+9.3%), Tools (+8.0%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+7.9%) grew more strongly and all categories saw gains.

Year-to-date sales (January to October) were 4.9% ahead of the same period last year and the rolling 12 months (November 2016 to October 2017) were 5.4% better than the preceding 12 months (+5.0% adjusted for a difference of one trading day).

October’s Building Merchant Building Index was 123.4 (116.4 adjusted for trading days). Ironmongery (130.6) was highest.

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