Sales growth slows at UK Builders Merchants

Sales growth slows at UK Builders Merchants

Sales figures for the final quarter of 2018 published today in the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) show the first signs of a negative Brexit effect.

While Total Builders Merchants sales in Q4 2018 were a respectable 3.1% higher than in Q4 2017 on closer inspection the results are less encouraging. The Quarter started well, with October 2018 sales values up 6.8% year-on-year. However, November grew by 0.8% and December sales were just 1.0% higher than December 2017. Factor in inflation and volumes will have been lower.

In terms of sales value, Timber & Joinery Products had the strongest fourth quarter, finishing 6.1% ahead of Q4 2017. Landscaping (+5.2%), Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+4.4%) and Decorating (+4.1%) also delivered above the average. Seven categories under performed the total sales average, including Heavy Building Materials, by far the largest category, (+1.9%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms

Quarter 4 sales are generally lower than Quarter 3 and Total Builders Merchants average daily sales were down at -4.9%. Only two categories strongly bucked the trend, with Workwear & Safetywear up 17.7% and Plumbing Heating & Electrical 16.6% higher.

Year on year, 2018 total merchant sales finished +3.8% ahead of 2017 (down from the previous year on year rise of +6.3%). Four categories did better than average, led by Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+7.1%), with Timber & Joinery Products (+7.0%) just behind. Six categories grew more slowly, once again including the largest category Heavy Building Materials which recorded +2.5% increase.

Commenting on the latest figures, John Newcomb, BMF CEO said:

“The year ended on a subdued note for builders’ merchants’ sales. As the deadline for the UK to leave the EU draws ever closer, the uncertainty that surrounds the terms of our departure – in particular, the terms relating to how the UK will trade with Europe post-Brexit – is not helping our sector. In our current state of limbo, it is no surprise that both businesses and home-owners are deferring investment decisions. But until the Brexit riddle is solved, no-one can begin to predict what will happen next.”

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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.