Blog – Merchants value sales up in May

Merchants value sales up in May

Total builders’ merchant value sales to builders and contractors increased 6.9% in May compared with May last year. Five categories did better, with Plumbing Heating & Electrical (11.9%) the top performer. Landscaping (+11.3%), Timber & Joinery Products (+8.2%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+7.1%) also sold more. Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, grew more slowly (+5.1%) and only Workwear & Safetywear sold less (-5.3%).

Overall sales in May were 11.4% higher than April, helped by one extra trading day. Seasonal category Landscaping (+29.0%) did best with its third consecutive big month-on-month increase. Heavy Building Materials improved 11.1% and ten of the twelve categories sold more. Average sales a day in May were 6.1% higher than April.

The first five months of 2018 were up 3.5% on the same period in 2017, with one additional trading day this year. The strongest category was Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+11.3%), with Kitchens & Bathrooms (6.0%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+5.5%) also doing better. Average sales a day in January to May were up 2.5% on the same months last year.

May’s BMBI index was 129.4, up from 116.1 last month. Landscaping (170.4) was top, followed by Heavy Building Materials (128.7) and Timber & Joinery Products (126.7).

Derrick McFarland, Managing Director Keystone Lintels and BMBI’s Expert for Steel Lintels, says: “In Q1 2017 we saw ‘highs’ in volume due to bulk buying ahead of significant price increases driven by rising steel prices. In Q1 2018 we had ‘lows’ due to prolonged poor weather. Housebuilders reported up to 20 days lost on some sites and in reality that may be time that has been lost for the rest of the year.

“Now with the sunshine back, quarter two is looking better, and optimism is oozing back into the industry. When we reviewed the quantity of enquiries received in the first quarter, it seemed that some work was delayed. It was good news that the work was still there, even though we may not see all these recovered sales within this calendar year.

“Once again the steel market is under strong pressure on pricing. US President, Donald Trump and his 25% levies are certainly unsettling the market, and possibly increasing prices in the long term. As always with steel, it’s not an easy commodity to second guess.

“Steel lintels, being within the fabric of the building structure, are affected by the overall supply chain of all heavy-side products required on site. Our concern is that in the longer term such key material shortages will force builders to review alternative ‘off site’ methods of construction that offer a greater confidence and surety in supply.”

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Launched in 2015, the award winning monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report is the only reliable measure of repair, maintenance & improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. Filling an important gap, it can be widely used in construction, and by economists, Government, national media, commentators and influencers outside the industry.