At the end of Q2 2020 the Builders’ Merchant sector was coming to terms with the initial fallout of the global pandemic and had just started to re-open. Fast forward a year and this ‘lost’ quarter from last year has been replaced by Q2 2021, the best performing quarter on record. June set a new record for sales, while April and May were the third and fourth best performing respectively. Q2 figures were around 20% higher than the highest previous quarter, which was Q3 2020.
These astounding growth figures have resulted in a year to date growth of 49.2% against the first half of 2020, as well as growth of 13.5% when compared to the same timeframe for 2019. The well documented surge in house building and buying has naturally played a key role, while the stock shortages experienced across the UK hasn’t slowed down market performance.
When reviewing category performance, the growth seen in 2021 can again be traced back to the performance of the core categories, as has been the case since the first lockdown. Heavy Building Materials are up 40.4% against the first half of 2020, while also up 6.8% against the same period of 2019. Timber & Joinery, driven by the surge in Timber spending, is up 74.0% and 28.9% respectively, with Landscaping up 58.6% against 2020 and 41.9% against 2019.
In June there were fewer subcategories to see record months, but some of the noteworthy ones included Blocks, Bricks, Insulation, Lintels, Sheet Materials and Timber. It’s also worth mentioning that none of the smaller categories such as Decorating, Ironmongery and Tools saw record months in June.
The second half of the year will be fascinating to track. Forecasts made during 2021 are below the growth figures seen so far in 2021, but there’s a natural expectation that the market will start slowing down due to a combination of factors. At the forefront of these are the shortage of HGV drivers, the end of the stamp duty holiday and continuing stock management challenges. It’s therefore difficult to predict how the remainder of the year will play out, but I’m sure that most people in the Builders’ Merchant sector would rather be challenged by too much business than too little.