Sales to builders and contractors by Britain’s builders’ merchants surged in September, with sales up 8.3% compared with September 2019, according to the latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report. Landscaping was the strongest category over the period (+31.2%), albeit with one extra trading day.
Total Builders Merchants value sales in Q3 2020 increased by 1% compared to Q3 2019. Landscaping sales were up 24.2% – the highest level since the index was set up in 2015. Workwear & Safetywear (+8%), benefited from a continued focus on PPE, while Timber & Joinery sales increased 3.5% over the same period. Heavy Building Materials saw a decrease of -1.0%.
Total value sales in Q3 2020 were significantly up on the previous quarter (+63.2%) when many merchants were closed. All product categories reported growth with Kitchens & Bathrooms seeing the strongest quarter-on-quarter recovery (+131%), closely followed by Tools (+130%).
Sales across all product categories were up in September compared to August, with Total Builders Merchants up 13.7%. The two largest categories – Heavy Building Materials and Timber & Joinery Products – were up 15.4% an 15.6% respectively.
Although year-to-date sales were lower than in 2019 due to the impact of Covid-19 closures, overall sales had recovered strongly by September. The rate of recovery however, varied between product sectors. While two sectors – Landscaping (+1.5%) and Workwear & Safetywear (+1.2%) – are ahead of January to September 2019, Kitchens & Bathrooms have some way to go, and Heavy Building Materials is 16.1% behind the same period last year.
August’s BMBI index was 124.6. Landscaping (175.5) was strongest, followed by Timber & Joinery Products (133.4).
Stacey Temprell, Marketing Director British Gypsum and BMBI’s Expert for Drylining Systems comments: “Compared to Q2, our performance was much stronger between July and September. The improvement was driven by the new-build market continuing in a Covid-safe environment, and the home improvement pound with vast numbers of people spending more time at home keen to improve their living, and their home-working space.
“With homeowners now able to take advantage of the Government’s Green Homes Grant, we are likely to see an increased demand for our internal wall insulation solutions over the Winter months. For this incentive to truly generate the green benefits it intends, homeowners will only be able to use installers who have been ‘certified’ and attended an accredited installation course, such as our own Internal Wall Insulation course.
“The new build residential market continues to be buoyant and a number of factors are contributing to this, including the Stamp Duty Holiday announced in Q2. Our housebuilder customers are reporting an increase in the need for available, semi-skilled labour on site, and this trend is reflected in the high levels of enrolment numbers we are seeing in courses such as our Site Ready Skimming Course. It’s precisely these sorts of practical, high-intensity upskilling courses that will support today’s skills demand and enable semi-skilled trades people to secure work on site.
“The severe economic impact of COVID-19 will continue to be felt as we enter 2021. And while Brexit was bumped by the pandemic from the headlines, it’s very much on business agendas, as we all make certain we are as prepared as we can be to ensure continuity of supply for the construction industry. Q4 trading is likely to get a final boost as companies stock build in anticipation of uncertainty about a deal, on the approach to a Brexit agreement deadline.”