RCI Article – Merchants’ sales fall as Brexit deadline nears

Merchants’ sales fall as Brexit deadline nears

After a strong start to the year, growing uncertainty around Brexit has led to a marked slowdown in merchants’ sales.

Total Builders Merchants value sales to roofers, builders and contractors in August 2019 were down -5.6% compared with the same period in 2018, on one less trading day. When adjusted for trading days, the decline was -1.1% over the same period.

Sectors that recorded positive year-on-year growth when adjusted for trading days included Kitchens & Bathrooms (+3.0%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+2.3%). However, sales fell over the period in some key sectors, including Timber & Joinery (-5.2%) and Heavy Building Materials (-0.8%).

Compared with July 2019, Total Builders Merchants value sales were down -11.4% in August. However, when adjusted for the two-day trading difference, the decline was -2.9%. All product categories saw sales decrease in August with Landscaping (-9.5%), Heavy Building Materials (-3.0%) and Timber & Joinery (-2.1%) affected the most.

Sales in the rolling 12 months September 2018 to August 2019 were up +1.6% on the same period last year. Year-to-date sales (January to August) also remained positive at +1.2% compared to January to August 2018.

August’s BMBI index was 117.7, with Landscaping the highest category at 136.7.

Paul Owen, Commercial Director Distribution IKO PLC and BMBI’s Expert for Roofing Products, comments: “The retail sector is often overlooked by roofing specialists. It tends to be serviced by the retail giants and a few retail-focussed builders’ merchants. However, there is a growth in demand for those products linked to our appetite for multi-use garden buildings that extend our living space.

“Demand for the specialist application systems remains very strong, with some contractors reporting full order books to Q1 2020. Hot-melt and inverted roof systems are a popular specification choice for clients in residential urban development projects.

“Quarter three is traditionally a busy period for the roofing sector, particularly for those who are involved with the refurbishment of buildings in the education sector. Enquiry levels are steady, indicating a degree of client optimism and continuity, but some sectors are reporting a slight drop in project enquiries for Q4, perhaps acknowledging the uncertainty ahead.”

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.