RCI Column – November merchant sales show pre-election dip

Total Builders’ Merchants’ value sales to roofers, builders and contractors in November 2019 were down -7.4% compared with the same month in 2018. On one less trading day, average sales a day dropped -3.0%. The following categories were particularly affected: Tools (-12.7%), Timber & Joinery (-9.6%), Ironmongery (-8.0%), Heavy Building Materials (-7.9%) and Landscaping (-7.4%).

The best performing sectors in November 2019 compared with the same period in 2018 were Renewables & Water Saving (+5.3%) and Workwear & Safetywear (+3.7%).

Month-on-month, November’s sales were down -10.0% compared with October 2019. All product categories experienced lower sales over the period. However, when adjusted for two less trading days in November, the drop was less severe at -1.4%.

November’s BMBI index was 113.4, with Plumbing, Heating & Electrical the highest at 134.6. The index for Heavy Building Materials was 112.2.

Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director Knauf Insulation and BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation, comments: “Since mid-2018, the UK’s major glass mineral wool manufacturers have had to operate allocation programmes to manage supplies. At Knauf Insulation, we were able to relax our allocation throughout Q3 2019, before removing it entirely from 1st November 2019 (our rock mineral wool products remained fully available throughout).

“Speaking with our customers, it’s clear that stock levels have returned to normal. This is good news because it means it will be much easier to get a better sense of the reality of that demand. During the period of allocation, sales figures were driven by availability – now we can assess the true underlying demand for glass mineral wool insulation.

“With a majority government now in place we hope to see a boost in some construction activity. Many of the fundamentals are in place – unemployment remains low, real wages are rising, and consumer spending is strong. Business confidence is the main area to now improve.

“Anticipating eventual stability, we’re looking ahead at the other factors that will affect merchants in 2020. The energy efficiency of homes is high on all parties’ agendas which bodes well. The Part L 2020 consultation and Future Homes Standard will also be critical – the industry must deliver resilient buildings that perform as designed in the real world. For merchants, that will mean an increasing focus on supplying the right product for every application.”

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

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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.

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