Professional Housebuilder and Property Developer column: Builders’ Merchants’ sales continue growth trajectory

The latest figures from the Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI), published in July, reveal that year-on-year value sales to builders and contractors by UK builders’ merchants are on an upward trajectory, as high demand for building products continues.


Total Builders Merchants value sales were up 79.6% in May 2021 compared to May 2020 with no difference in trading days.

Comparisons with May 2020 show a turnaround in fortunes for many categories, including Tools (+180%) which was the weakest category in May 2020. Six other categories more than doubled their year-on-year sales, including Kitchens & Bathrooms (+154.9%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+118.1%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+115.1%). Decorating (94.3%) also outperformed general merchant performance.

The country was still in full lockdown in May last year, so significant increases are expected. However, total sales were also up compared to May 2019 (+7.9%), with two less trading days. See Chart.

Last three months

Total value sales in March to May 2021 were 110.6% higher than the same three months in 2020, helped by one more trading day this year. Total sales were also up on the same three months of 2019 (+17.5%), with no difference in trading days.


Total sales in May failed to reach the record-breaking heights seen in March and April (-6.1% on April, with one less trading day). All categories sold less, but some did fare better than merchants generally including Decorating (-5.9%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-5.2%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-1.8%) – a positive sign that inside trades are getting back on their feet after being hampered by the winter lockdown.


May’s BMBI index was 141.4, with two less trading days. Landscaping (220.5) and Timber & Joinery Products (173.2) both out-performed merchants overall.

Expert Comment

Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director at Knauf Insulation and BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation comments: “Confidence in the sector is sky high, with a healthy recovery forecast for construction and manufacturing. In fact, just after the first quarter ended the Purchasing Managers Index hit levels not seen since 1994. The end of lockdown restrictions, pent up projects and ongoing government support for the housing market has turbocharged demand and there is little sign of it abating.

“In the face of this voracious demand, supply has become a challenge. Across the board, from timber to plaster, steel to insulation, suppliers have faced a perfect storm of disruption which has inevitably meant price increases for common construction materials and in some cases, limited availability.

“We are working hard to bring new manufacturing capacity online to increase the supply of high performance, non-combustible mineral wool insulation for our UK customers. The non-combustible part is key. In the face of high demand, it’s vital that the construction industry doesn’t cut corners. We’ve all seen the headlines from the Grenfell inquiry, and the ongoing turmoil caused by cladding remedial work.

“With building regulations changing, the new Construction Products Regulator coming and mortgage lenders and insurers taking a keener interest in material choice, it’s clear that the issue of fire safety isn’t going away.”

This article was first published at

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