Builders’ Merchants’ sales grow 9% despite second lockdown

The latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report shows that value sales to builders by Britain’s builders’ merchants in November saw their largest year-on-year increase since March 2019, despite stricter Covid-19 restrictions being in place for most of the month. With builders heeding the Government’s directive to keep construction sites open, total sales were 9.0% higher than in November 2019.

Year-on-year growth was driven primarily by four main product categories: Landscaping was up 29.3% compared to November 2019, while Timber & Joinery Products also reported substantial value sales growth at 16.3%. Sales of Heavy Building Materials (+8.7%) and Ironmongery (+2.4%) were also above last November’s level.

The other eight categories sold less. While Workwear & Safetywear (-6.0%) and Plumbing Heating & Electrical (-5.8%) remained weak compared to last November, many other categories recovered with sales just below last year’s level.

Month-on-month data shows that the strongest increases compared to October were in the Renewables & Water Saving (+4.6%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+2.9%) categories. Sales in the Landscaping category (-9.5%) fell as colder weather set in.

Overall, Total Merchants’ Sales in November were 2.3% lower than in October 2020, on one less trading day. However, when adjusted for the trading day difference, sales increased 2.3% compared to last month, with almost all categories ahead.

Since the start of the pandemic and through the recovery phase, Timber & Joinery Products and Landscaping have consistently performed above the total index, somewhat buoyed by price increases, while the more competitive Decorating and Tools categories have been tracking well below.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces the BMBI reports says: “Categorised by Government as essential to the economy, builders’ merchants, and the construction industry as a whole, remained fully open during the tighter Covid-19 restrictions imposed in November.

“Although November’s surge included an element of pre-Brexit stockpiling and some sharp price increases on imported goods, the very positive sales figures demonstrate the resilience of the merchant sector. It also shows how well and quickly they’ve adapted to the circumstances by rolling out online ordering, click-and-collect or delivery to site options on a broader scale to avoid disruption the second time around.

“It’s an excellent foundation for further growth in a post-Covid marketplace as we emerge from the pandemic.”

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 provided each quarter.

November’s BMBI report is available to download here.

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