Professional Housebuilder & Property Developer column – Builders’ Merchants’ sales resilient in January

The latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report, published in March, shows that value sales to builders and contractors by Britain’s builders’ merchants in January were 3.7% lower than in January 2020, as the country went into lockdown for the third time. However, January 2021 had two fewer trading days, affecting the comparison.

Three categories had higher sales in January 2021: Timber & Joinery Products (+7.7%), Landscaping (+3.7%) and Workwear & Safetywear (+2.4%). However, indoor trades have been negatively impacted by a third lockdown, including Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-11.9%), Kitchens & Bathrooms (-13.5%) and Decorating (-17.2%).

Last three months

Total sales in the three months to January 2021 were 4.4% higher than in the same period a year previously. Landscaping was particularly strong, increasing by 19.1%. Timber & Joinery Products and Heavy Building Materials were the only other categories selling more.

Total Merchants’ sales in January 2021 were 20.6% higher than in December 2020, helped by three more trading days. Workwear & Safetywear (+39.1%) did best, with Timber & Joinery Products and Heavy Building Materials also performing well.


January’s BMBI index was 100.7, with Workwear & Safetywear the strongest at 122.3, followed by Timber & Joinery Products (120.0).


Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director Knauf Insulation and BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool insulation, comments: “We have seen a rebound in Mineral Wool demand. A strong housing market helps: the stamp duty holiday means more people moving, and prolonged periods at home has encouraged renovation.

“This year we expect to see a renewed focus on building sustainability, and rightly so, especially with the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference. There are big imminent changes to the regulatory landscape around energy efficiency, and we’re now in the final consultation stages for Part L 2020, due to come into force early next year.

“Merchants have their own role to play in making our industry more sustainable, but when it comes to product choice, what should they do? The longer answer is to take a closer look at manufacturers’ environmental footprints. Look at the materials they use. What proportion are recycled or come from abundant natural resources? Are any oil-based, or do they contain harmful chemicals? And are the products packaged and distributed to minimise waste and road miles?

“The short answer is simply to partner with manufacturers who take sustainability seriously. In my view, that means businesses that have made firm commitments to address their environmental impact, with clear targets. Progressive manufacturers will make this information readily available to merchants and their customers through Declaration of Performance documents, for example.

“Low-carbon construction is inevitable. In the future, merchants will play a key role in supplying the right products to help their customers create energy efficient buildings with minimal environmental impact.”

This article was originally published on Professional Housebuilder & Property Developer (PHPD)’s website

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