Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director Talasey Group is BMBI’s Expert for Natural Stone Landscaping Products, Vitrified Paving & Artificial Grass.
The start of Q2 was hit by lockdown, just before Easter, the peak season for hard landscaping. The weather was excellent, with the sunniest Spring on record for the UK, but the closure of many builders’ merchants in April meant sales dropped like a stone.
We were in the good position going into the quarter with full stock levels and new product lines, including a new decking range, and serviced some customers throughout the pandemic. Demand for all landscaping products is very high and continues to increase with furloughed and home-working homeowners improving their outside spaces to enjoy their garden – this year’s new staycation!
Recovery in landscaping has been quicker and stronger than in other sectors. Buoyed by good weather and the driest May ever recorded, and workers on furlough with more time to spend in the garden, the market performed above expectation during May and June.
Importing has been difficult but despite supply problems, specifically from China at the start of the pandemic and disruptions to transport, we have not experienced major issues with availability. However, prices have increased due to shipping and raw material costs. Price of Indian sandstone are expected to continue rising as the lockdown in India halted extraction in the quarries before the monsoon season started. So, grey sandstone is in very short supply and prices have been creeping up every day, making it hard to plot UK landed prices. Landscaping materials have never been in so much demand but getting stock of products like stone and porcelain have been harder than normal and this will continue beyond September.
More and more merchants are trading online with lower stock levels, putting more pressure on suppliers to do all the operational work. There is also a high risk of a second wave of the virus and, as a major product importer, we are also very concerned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. There is a fog over tariffs and new rules, and exchange rates may be volatile for some time.
We see demand outstripping the limited supply and the landscaping season extending well into the winter months, but nothing is certain in this extraordinary year.