Sales in Q1 2016 were up by 5.4% on Q1 2015 with total ex VAT sales-out of £1.27bn compared to £1.20bn.  Q1 sales also rose by 4.6% on Q4 2015.

There was strong growth throughout each of the first three months of the year, with both January and March showing >2% growth year on year despite one less trading day in each month.

Year on year sales of Landscaping Products were particularly strong (+10.7%).  Other major product areas also delivered excellent growth with Heavy Building Materials up 5.2%, Timber & Joinery Products up 4% and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical up 7.3%.  Interior products also performed well with sales of Decorating & Renovation Products increasing by 5.1% and Kitchens & Bathrooms up by 3.9%.

The data shows year on year growth in all but one sales category, with Renewables & Water Saving Products down by 26.7%.  This is, however, a very small element of total merchant sales with any volatility likely to produce a wild swing.

The main drivers for growth are Heavy Building Materials and Timber & Joinery Products, with respectively 46.6% and 21% of total builders merchants’ sales during the last quarter. Both Landscaping Products (7.2%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (5.7%) marginally increased their share of total sales, up by 0.4% and 0.1% respectively, while Kitchens & Bathrooms maintained its 4.7% share.

BMF’s Managing Director, John Newcomb said: “The year on year and quarter on quarter growth evident in builders merchants sales is clearly encouraging.  It is also at odds with the recent ONS figures that reported construction output down by 1.9%, which have already been challenged by the Construction Products Association.  Our data is in line with the CPA’s Q1  survey. ONS figures have been revised in the past, so they may yet come back with a more positive picture that reflects what is actually happening in the market.”