RCI Column – Builders’ Merchants see slower rate of recovery in August


The Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report, published in October, shows builders’ merchants’ sales to roofers, builders and contractors continuing to recover in August, but at a slower pace compared to the previous two months.


Total Builders Merchants value sales in August were 3.9% behind August 2019. However, daily sales were 0.9% above last year’s level when adjusted for the difference in trading days. Three categories did better, with Landscaping (+16.3%) the top performer. Sales for the largest category – Heavy Building Materials – fell 5.8%.


Total sales were up 73.8% in June to August compared with the previous three months (March to May), when many merchants had closed branches as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown. Six categories did better over this period, led by Tools (+124.1%).


Total Merchants sales were 14.2% lower in August compared to July, which had three more trading days. All categories sold less, with Heavy Building Materials at -13.5%.


August’s BMBI index was 113.3. Landscaping (157.2) was strongest, followed by Timber & Joinery Products (120.6).

Jim Blanthorne, Managing Director Keylite Roof Windows and BMBI’s Expert for Roof Windows, comments: “Our professional and personal lives have been massively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, posing unexpected challenges for us all. 2020 has certainly been an eventful year for the construction products market, the UK and the world as a whole.

“While sales of roof windows were significantly impacted during April and May, dropping to 50% of the previous year, sales in June, July and early August increased to levels close to expected performance.

“Feedback from our merchant partners and other suppliers in the industry would suggest that this trend is common, and with a sudden return to normal volumes we are hearing anecdotal reports of supply chain issues in various sectors of the construction product market.

“RMI remains strong, but only time will tell how this continues. Most homes were not designed for working from home and many homeowners are adapting their homes to this new normal, or plan to. The concept of a room in the roof has never been so relevant. A recent research of UK homeowners by money.co.uk (2020 Renovation Nation Report) finds that spending more time at home has inspired almost two thirds (65%) of homeowners to invest in renovating their property, and 63% of them investing to make their home more comfortable.”

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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.