RCI column – Builders’ Merchants’ October sales remain subdued

Total Builders’ Merchants’ value sales to roofers, builders and contractors in October were down -4.4% compared with the same period in 2018, on an equal number of trading days. Categories showing a weaker performance year-on-year were Tools (-9.2%), Timber & Joinery (-7.2%), Landscaping (-5.4%) and Heavy Building Materials (-4.9%).

The best performing sectors in October 2019 compared with October 2018 were Workwear & Safetywear (+9.0%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+4.1%), with Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+0.3%) also showing marginal growth.

The picture was more positive month-on-month. Total October 2019 sales were up by +6.0% compared with September. Most product categories saw relatively strong growth month-on-month, at least on an unadjusted basis, including Timber & Joinery (+6.8%), and Heavy Building Materials (+5.7%). However, when adjusted for the two-day trading difference, Total Builders’ Merchants’ sales were down by -3.2%.

October’s BMBI index was 126.0, with Plumbing, Heating & Electrical the highest at 141.5.

John Coe, Commercial Director Alumasc Water Management Solutions (AWMS) and BMBI Expert for Metal Rainwater & Drainage, comments: “New regulations coming into force April 2020 aim to keep rainwater out of the sewerage system, using sustainable drainage systems (SuDS). The rules will help accelerate housebuilding by smoothing the transfer of ownership and responsibility to water companies once developments are complete. Whether it’s a water management solution for individual buildings, developments, towns or wider, we need joined-up solutions.

“The Brexit extension to the end of January and resulting uncertainty with clients is a problem that affects the entire supply chain. Concerns over import and export tariffs, labour and material shortages compound a reluctance by clients to ‘press go’ on larger projects while the outcome is uncertain.

“Enquiry levels are healthy which suggests there is work in the pipeline and October was a good month across all AWMS business units. However, we believe this is more of a timing issue than an indication of an uplift in market activity.”

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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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