In the latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report published in May, Britain’s Builders’ Merchants continued to report strong growth in Q1 2021, with total value sales up 8.6% compared to the previous quarter and 15.1% up on Q1 2020. Removing the effects of Covid, results are still positive, with merchants reporting an increase of 6.0% in Q1 2021 on Q1 2019.
Growth was fuelled by a bumper March, with total sales up 47.4% on March 2020 and by a no less extraordinary 23.0% compared to the same month in 2019. Sales for Kitchens & Bathrooms were up 18.7% on March 2020 but down slightly by 1% on March 2019.
Outdoor categories, particularly Landscaping and Timber & Joinery products, experienced exceptional first quarter growth. Landscaping sales were 41.4% up on Q1 2020 and an astonishing 32.3% up on Q1 2019. Over the same periods, Timber & Joinery Products was up 30.5% and 15.8% respectively.
However, for indoor trades like Kitchens & Bathrooms, where Covid restrictions has impacted the rate of recovery in these sectors, sales were down -1.8% on Q1 2020. Month-on-month, however, it was a positive picture, with sales up 12.3% in March compared to February.
The BMBI index for Q1 2021 was 120.7. Timber & Joinery Products and Landscaping were the strongest categories, each at 141.5. For Kitchens & Bathrooms the Q1 index was 107.5.
Mick Evans, Operations Director Lakes Showering Spaces and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering comments: “In a market used to thinking of 2-3% up or down as significant, it’s been an extraordinary 18 months. Lockdown restrictions have hit internal trades harder than external, however with restrictions being relaxed, homeowners are feeling more confident about letting tradespeople back into their homes. With pent-up demand and, according to the BoE, an accumulated £200bn in consumer savings, RMI activity is already fizzing.
“A year at home, in homes that weren’t designed for staying in or working from home, has persuaded many to invest more in their homes, so they’re ‘designed for life’. The housing market is frenetic, and home improvements show no signs of slowing. Better bathrooms and new bathrooms have become a higher priority.
“There is also growing demand for more attractive multigenerational products. For example, non-slip stone shower trays, stylishly secure seating, and grab rails which make showering safer for the older and less secure-footed.
“As the host of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, there is real emphasis for the UK to lead from the front and inspire action ahead of November. There are many aspects to sustainability and saving CO2 in practice, and Lakes is proud to have been the first in our sector to be awarded Carbon Neutral Plus certification for our UK operations, for continued commitment to reducing our impact on the environment. We invested significantly in packaging design, and closing the loop for recycling, and reducing carbon miles. Equally, sustainability can apply to delivering high quality products which are designed to last longer, making for happier customers and less waste of materials and resources.
“Looking ahead, polls show working from home is unlikely to see a big reversal, and RMI is forecast to grow strongly in the medium to long term. Omnichannel sales are growing strongly, and we expect this to continue. But homeowners often need help, and only know what they want when they’re shown it and have it explained by an expert. Are stockists and retailers ready?”
This article was originally published in Kitchen and Bathroom News June 2021 issue.