RCI Column – Builders’ Merchants sales confirm strong V-shaped recovery


Britain’s builders’ merchants sales to roofers, builders and contractors bounced back strongly in the three months May to July, with value sales surging 38.9% ahead compared with February to April, as reported in July’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report. Landscaping was significantly ahead of all categories at +130.4% over the period. Timber & Joinery Products followed with +44.3%. Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, was also ahead (+35.6%).


Compared with the same three months of 2019 total sales were down 13.4% overall, but July sales were only 1.3% below July 2019 and some categories were ahead. Landscaping (+25.4%), Workwear & Safetywear (+21.3%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+1.5%) were up on the same month last year.


Total value sales was up +8.7% in July compared to June 2020, with all but one category reporting growth. Workwear & Safetywear was top (+34.1%), followed by Kitchens & Bathrooms (+27.3%). Heavy Building Materials was up +8.0%.


The monthly BMBI index for Total Builders Merchants was 131.9, with Heavy Building Materials at 125.6.

Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director Knauf Insulation and BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation, comments: “Like everybody, we’ve adapted to a ‘new normal’ over recent months. Our commercial team have swapped face-to-face meetings for virtual ones so we can stay close to our customers, and even speak more frequently.

“Face-to-face training has also become virtual. Recently we launched our new series of 15-minute online training modules for merchants. Each module focuses on a specific insulation topic or application to help merchants better serve their customers and make the most of link-selling opportunities as the industry recovers.

“Of course, the big question is just how rapid recovery will be. We have seen increasing demand since the beginning of May, helped partly by the recent stamp duty relaxation.

“There are other reasons for optimism on the outlook for insulation. The government’s widely publicised Green Homes Grants of up to £10,000 a home for home energy efficiency improvements will provide an obvious short-term boost.

“The real boost comes if the Green Homes Grant is just the start of a national investment in the energy efficiency of UK homes. The current consensus on the need for major public investment to create jobs, improve housing stock and meet emissions goals gives us a historic opportunity (and the reality is, there is no path to achieve net-zero without widespread retrofits using high quality insulation).

“We’re playing our part to ensure that the opportunity isn’t missed. The chancellor’s announcements followed a successful campaign run by the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group, supported by the Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association (MIMA) and partners including Knauf Insulation. We’ll continue to talk to government to make sure energy efficiency remains at the top of the agenda for a green recovery.”

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