Building Talk: Builders’ Merchants’ sales continues growth trajectory

The latest figures from the Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) reveal year-on-year builders’ merchants’ value sales to builders and contractors are on an upward trajectory, as the industry continues to meet high demand for building products, with Landscaping and Timber & Joinery Products still driving growth.

Year-on-year

Total Builders Merchants value sales were up 79.6% in May 2021, in comparison to May 2020, with no difference in trading days.

Comparisons with May 2020 show a turnaround in fortunes for many categories. Tools performed the best (+180%) after being the weakest category in May 2020. Six other categories more than doubled their year-on-year sales, including Kitchens & Bathrooms (+154.9%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+118.1%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+115.1%).

The country was still in full lockdown in May last year, so significant increases are the expectation. However, total sales were also up compared to May 2019 (+7.9%), with two less trading days. Average sales a day were 19.3% higher over the same period.

However, some categories are still waiting to hit their pre-pandemic levels. Comparisons with May 2019 sales show that just three of the 12 categories sold more, led by Timber & Joinery Products (+28.1%) and Landscaping (+26.5%). Heavy Building Materials sales were flat against 2019 (-0.1%).

Last three months

Total value sales in March to May 2021 were 110.6% higher than the same three months in 2020, helped by one more trading day this year. Tools (+179.7%) performed strongly, followed by Timber & Joinery Products (+147.3%) and Landscaping (+130.8%). Total sales were also up on the same three months of 2019 (+17.5).

Month-on-month

Month-on-month figures indicate that May sales failed to reach the record-breaking heights seen in March and April (-6.1% on April, with one less trading day). All categories sold less, but some did fare better than merchants generally including Decorating (-5.9%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-5.2%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-1.8%) – a positive sign that inside trades are getting back on their feet after being hampered by the winter lockdown.

Rolling 12 months

Merchants’ value sales in the 12 months June 2020 to May 2021 were 20.8% higher than in the same 12 months a year earlier, with two more trading days in the most recent period.

Index

May’s BMBI index was 141.4, with two less trading days. Landscaping (220.5) and Timber & Joinery Products (173.2) both out-performed merchants overall.

Steve Durdant-Hollamby, Managing Director of Polypipe Civils and BMBI’s Expert for Civils & Green Infrastructure, comments: “With strong order activity across all sectors, inflationary pressure is coming from supply shortages. Evidenced through a rise in pre-ordering to offset potential site delays, the impact is being felt through the supply chain, with material supply pressures becoming increasingly acute.

“As COVID and its dominance of media headlines recedes, we can already see the impact of Brexit being more widely discussed and climate change moving back centre stage. Government announcements on net zero and Biodiversity Net Gain planning policy coming into force, have rightly turned eyes to COP26 in Glasgow in November as a potential watershed moment for our industry.

“COP26 is our opportunity to show the global community how our built environment is being re-imagined and re-purposed through our uptake of new technologies and new design approaches, like green urbanisation, which can deliver targeted levels of health, wellbeing, and sustainability.”

This column was published on www.buildingtalk.com on 2nd August 2021.

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