Builders’ Merchants’ October sales a varied mix of highs and lows

The latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report shows that sales to builders by Britain’s builders’ merchants were largely flat in October 2020, though the performance varied widely by product sector.

The Landscaping sector continued to perform well, remaining strong into October and recording an increase of 16.5% compared to October last year. Timber & Joinery Products, which has been subject to significant price increases in recent months, recorded its highest monthly turnover since BMBI data began to be collected in July 2014, with a 5% value sales increase on October last year.

In contrast, Plumbing, Heating & Electrical category sales were 10.5% lower than in October 2019, with Decorating (-8.1%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-6.5%) also struggling to recover.

Overall, Total Builders Merchants’ sales were only 0.2% higher than in October 2019. However, average sales a day, which takes the 1-day trading day difference into account, were 4.7% higher year-on-year.

Month-on-month data shows that the strongest increases compared to September were in Workwear & Safetywear (+12.7%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+9.2%), while sales in the highly seasonal category Landscaping (-16%) started to fall. Overall, Total Merchants’ Sales in October were 1.8% lower than September.

Total sales year-to-date were down 13.8% compared with January to October 2019, with Landscaping the only category to track ahead of last year at 2.8% higher. Most categories remain between 13% and 19% lower than last year, while Tools (-23.9%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-22.1%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-21.3%) sold even less in the period up to and including October 2020.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces the BMBI reports says: “Merchants have recovered well given the exceptional challenges they faced this year, but continued uncertainty due to an emerging second wave of Covid-19 and tense Brexit negotiations took its toll on sales in October.

“While landscaping performed well above expectation, it’s disappointing that Plumbing, Heating & Electrical and Kitchen & Bathroom sales didn’t see as much of a seasonal increase in October this year as they usually do.”

Developed and run by MRA Research, the BMBI – a brand of the Builders Merchant Federation – is a monthly index of builders’ merchant sales, and the most reliable, up-to-date measure of Repair, Maintenance, and Improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. The data is not from a sample survey but is actual sales from GfK’s Builders’ Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data, which captures value sales out to builders from generalist builders’ merchants, accounting for over 80% of total sales from builders’ merchants throughout Great Britain. An in-depth review, which includes commentary by sector experts, is also provided each quarter.

October’s BMBI report is available to download at www.bmbi.co.uk.

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