Professional Housebuilder & Property Developer Column – Builders’ merchant sales bounce back in May


The latest figures from the May Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report reveal a sharp rise in sales as lockdown restrictions ease and trades return to work.


Total Builders Merchants value sales to builders, developers and contractors in May were down -39.9% compared with May 2019, reflecting the cautious reopening of merchant branches with many still operating a restricted service. However, the overall trading figures are a significant improvement on April 2020 sales (-76.3%).

All categories sold less, with Tools (-66.1%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-62.7%) hit hardest by the pandemic lockdown. Heavy Building Materials, the largest product category, was down -39.0% year-on-year but showed a substantial month-on-month improvement on April 2020 (+157.6%).

The biggest winner in May was Landscaping, with sales of this seasonal category down just -12.5% on May 2019. This is a remarkable recovery from April 2020, when sales were down a massive -74.4% on April 2019.


With April sales at unprecedented levels, May’s partial recovery resulted in some highly unusual month-on-month growth figures. Total merchant value sales were 171.3% above April 2020, with one less trading day this month. Five categories did better, led by Tools (+308%) and Landscaping (+278.9%). Kitchens & Bathrooms was also up by 210.7%, followed by Timber & Joinery products at +199.5% and Decorating at +177.0%.

Other periods

Year-to-date sales in the first five months of 2020 were 29.2% down on January to May 2019, with one less trading day this year. Workwear & Safetywear (-2.7%) did best, boosted by strong demand for protective equipment. The three weakest categories were Tools (-40.4%), Kitchens & Bathrooms (-33.2%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-31.3%).


May’s BMBI index was 78.7. With the exception of seasonal category Landscaping (152.5), all categories were well down.

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