Positive growth for merchants in Q1 2019
Merchants reported a strong start to the year with Total Builders’ Merchants value sales to builders and contractors up 5.9% in the first quarter compared with Q1 2018. Product categories that grew strongly included Timber & Joinery, up 6.6%, Heavy Building Materials, up 6.8%, and strongly seasonal Landscaping, which saw value growth of 15.6% as the year got off to a better start than 2018 with the milder weather.
Compared with Q4 2018, sales in Q1 2019 increased by 1.9%, but average sales a day (which takes into account the difference in trading days) were 3.0% lower over the same period.
Total sales in March 2019 were up 8.3%, with the milder weather impacting positively compared to the same period last year. Product categories that displayed the highest growth year-on-year were those related to external work. Timber & Joinery was up by 9.2% and Heavy Building Materials by 9.4%, while landscaping increased by 25.6% over March 2018.
Month-on-month, sales in March were 11.8% higher than in February on one more trading day, and average sales a day were up 6.5%.
March’s BMBI index was 121.6, with Landscaping (131.6) the top performing category.
Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director of Talasey Group and BMBI’s Expert for Natural Stone Landscaping Products, Vitrified Paving & Artificial Grass, said: “The landscaping sector had an incredibly busy quarter one. Customers are also saying that April looks like a record sales month. Artificial grass was the hero landscaping product this quarter. With ever-increasing product quality for the best grasses and a UV guarantee as standard, they are perfect for a low maintenance small garden.
“The industry built high stock levels prior to the now-postponed Brexit deadline, but these are now being used to satisfy high demand. However, being able to fund and maintain high stocks depends on shipping rates, which although always subject to fluctuations have now risen to very high levels. Everyone wants to import product into the country – not just the construction industry. This could mean shortages later in the year if some players decide not to pay such prices and take the risk.
“Construction faces a skills crisis as a large cohort of over 55-year old builders and tradespeople prepare to retire, younger workers from the EU go home and UK school leavers are steered away from a career in building by misguided parents and teachers. Taking the initiative for our own sector, Talasey is addressing the existing skills gap and recognising the need for accredited landscaping training. In some areas of the country, there are long waiting lists for homeowners wanting new driveways or patios – the demand for our successful trainees is out there!”
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