Lakes comment: Q3 2018

Mike Tattam, Sales & Marketing Director Lakes, is BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering.

After a relatively strong second quarter, BMBI Q3 kitchen and bathroom sales were disappointing. Sales started well but weakened during the period. Compared with the same three months in 2017, value sales were up just 2.1% against total builders’ merchants’ sales, 4.2% ahead. But comparing the 12 months to September 2018 with the same twelve months in 2017, there was little divergence (up 4.5% against total sales up 4.6%).

New Build housing is up with very good prospects, but housing moves are down, affected by uncertainty and ceaseless media criticism of the Government’s handling of the Brexit negotiations.

Kitchens and bathrooms RMI sales appear no better or worse than overall builders’ merchant sales. But in more visible, higher value home improvements such as kitchens, bathrooms, hard landscaping, windows, doors and conservatories which visibly enhance the value of a property, sales are a composite of two different, diverging markets. At the premium, upper-end of the market sales are relatively untroubled by weaker economic forces, while Mrs May’s JAMs, the Just About Managing middle and lower sectors of the market, struggle to fund the improvements they need.

In the last 20 years, the over-55 homeowners have seen their housing wealth rise as house prices boosted their value. Largely mortgage free, they own the bulk of UK savings and many enjoy secure pensions. These homeowners – the Haves – drive premium sales in most home improvement markets, and across home improvements the premium is expanding while the middle and budget are contracting. Most innovations and product enhancing developments are designed for them. They buy the improvements they want, when they want, because they can. Younger homeowners, often with far higher incomes, have competing priorities and higher outgoings, leaving far less to spend on the home.

Whatever happens in the aftermath to Brexit, the Haves, particularly the over 55s, will be relatively unaffected. Even in doomsday scenarios where house prices lose a large part of their value, they remain house-wealthy with their savings and pensions intact. It’s a safe bet that the premium market sector continues to grow strongly with a demand for style, design and additional functionality.

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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.