blog – Builders’ merchants’ sales fall in Q3

Total Builders’ Merchants’ value sales to builders and contractors were down -0.8% in quarter three compared to the same period last year, while the adjusted figure, which takes into account the difference in trading days, was down -2.3% compared with Q3 2018.

Merchants’ sales of Heavy Building Materials (the largest category) declined marginally by -0.4% year-on-year, while Timber & Joinery was down by -4.7% over the same period. Kitchens & Bathrooms was among the strongest categories with growth of +3.2% in Q3.

Compared with Q2 2019, Total Builders’ Merchants’ sales saw marginal growth of +0.2% in quarter three. However, when adjusted for the four additional trading days, the figures showed a sales decline of -6.0%, marking the second consecutive quarter with negative growth. Merchants’ sales of both Heavy Building Materials (-5.5%) and Timber & Joinery (-6.5%) fell quarter-on-quarter.

September’s BMBI index was 118.9, with Landscaping (125.3) the top performing category.

Andrew Simpson, National Commercial Director Hanson Cement and BMBI’s Expert for Cement & Aggregates, comments: “The Mineral Products Association reported that seasonally-adjusted demand for construction products improved in Q3 compared to Q2. Mortar sales were up 5.2% followed by asphalt (4.1%), aggregates (1.7%) and Ready Mixed Concrete (RMC), up 1.4%.

“This is an improvement, but the construction market is still weak. For instance, RMC is the biggest sales channel for cement, so it’s a concern that important markets such as London and the South East are in decline year-on-year. These two markets account for about a third of GB demand with volumes now 10% lower than 2018. The underlying problem is the decline in commercial projects and the postponing of infrastructure projects. These can be directly linked to Brexit and political uncertainty which are stifling investment and delaying decisions. It could be some time before confidence and investment returns.

“Sales to builders’ merchants have been difficult to predict. Wet weather has been a factor, but many merchants report lower order books and a slowing in demand. With continued political uncertainty and heavy rains this autumn, Q4 will be a challenge.

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities.

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