Merchants’ August sales boosted by Timber & Joinery, and Landscaping
Total builders’ merchant value sales to builders and contractors were up 3.5% in August compared with August 2017. Two categories did better, Timber & Joinery Products (+9.5%) and Landscaping (+6.9%). Heavy Building Materials (+1.6%) and Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+1.2%) were among six categories that grew more slowly.
Overall August sales were 3.4% lower than July, including Decorating (-1.9%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-2.5%). Only Workwear & Safetywear (+2.5%) sold more than in July. The first eight months of 2018 were 4.5% ahead of the same period in 2017, with one additional trading day this year. Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+9.2%) did best. The rolling 12 months September 2017 to August 2018 were 4.8% above the same 12 months a year earlier, with Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+8.7%) strongest.
August’s BMBI index was 124.7, with one additional trading day. Seasonal category Landscaping was top (142.4) followed by Timber & Joinery Products (129.3) and Ironmongery (124.4). Ten of the 12 categories exceeded 100.
Nigel Cox, Managing Director Timbmet and BMBI’s Expert for Timber & Panel Products, comments: “Demand for timber and panel products improved in the second quarter of 2018 as a result of better weather and increased construction activity. BMBI statistics reflected this with the category highlighted as the second-highest performer year-on-year in Q2 and the strongest category in July and August. We remain optimistic for the future but are aware of significant uncertainty around Brexit. Continued fluctuation in the sterling exchange rate impacting on prices is a concern, especially when forward buying in euros or dollars. The uncertainty around importing protocols should there be a no-deal Brexit is another concern.
“Following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government commissioned a review of building regulations and fire safety. While we welcome the review findings we must all ensure that we respond to the consultation, and promote the benefits of timber. There will be opportunities that we’re well placed to support, such as the need to replace fire doors in public housing.
“Hardwood timber supply is generally stable. African timber supply problems are now known and imports are being managed: in the short-term timber is still available. There is an increased requirement for prime-grade European oak which is affecting availability of supply and increasing price. Demand could be increased further following President Trump’s decision to impose trade levies and the proposed Chinese counter of a 25% levy on American timber imports. Any shortage of European oak should be offset by an increased availability of American oak”.