RCI Column – Builders’ Merchants sales plateau in October

Sales to builders, roofers and contractors by Britain’s builders’ merchants were flat in October 2020. Total Builders Merchants value sales were only 0.2% higher than in October 2019,  according to the latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report published in December.

Year-on-year

Only two product categories sold more in October 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, led by Landscaping (+16.5%). Timber & Joinery Products (+5.0%) had its highest monthly turnover since BMBI data was first recorded in July 2014. All other product categories were down, with sales of Heavy Building Materials 0.6% lower over the period.

Quarter-on-quarter

Overall sales in August to October were up 1.5% compared with the same three months in 2019, with one less trading day this year. Compared with the previous three months (May to July), sales were up 10.9% with all but one category reporting better sales over this period.

Month-on-month

Total Merchants sales decreased by 1.8% in October compared to September. Five product categories sold more in October, with Workwear & Safetywear (+12.7%) doing best. Three categories were weaker than merchants generally, including Landscaping (-15.8%) and Heavy Building Materials (-2.1%).

Index

October’s BMBI index was 126.4, with Timber & Joinery Products strongest at 141.1. The index for Heavy Building Materials stood at 122.8

Lynn Street, Sales & Marketing Manager Midland Lead and BMBI’s Expert for Lead, comments: “Without stating the obvious, 2020 was globally turbulent and unpredictable. Nobody could have planned for the events that unfolded over the course of the year.

“Every day is now a new day in a ‘new normal’ with its own challenges, whether it’s with staffing due to people having to self-isolate, or issues with the supply chain and extended delivery terms.

“However, the construction sector stayed open for business, and it will remain open. The construction and roofing sectors have been busy, which opened up opportunities for many, while posing many challenges for others.

“Builders’ merchants are resilient and have proved this by adapting quickly, especially with regards to managing staff shortages, extending opening hours, and taking a fresh look at how they operate by introducing e-commerce and embracing digital technologies.

“Looking ahead, we cannot push aside Brexit. At the time of writing, it is difficult to forecast potential price fluctuations due to the uncertainty around import tariffs. We expect that to become clearer as the effects of Brexit settle later in 2021.

“I do believe however, that it is crucial that none of us lose sight of the long-term while we are stuck in the here and now. Our ambition for 2021 is that the construction and roofing sector return to steady growth, by investing in sustainable manufacturing practices, bridging the skills shortage and forging ahead with a five-year vision.”

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