Figures just released in the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index show positive sales growth through UK builders merchants during the first quarter of the year. Total Q1 sales were up +5.9% compared with the same period in 2018.
Landscaping products saw the strongest annual value growth (+15.6%). The two largest product categories also performed well with Heavy Building Materials up +6.8% and Timber & Joinery Products rising by +6.6%. Sales in all three product groups were adversely weather-affected in 2018 so a stronger performance during a relatively mild, dry winter was to be expected.
There was a mixed picture for interior product groups, with Decorating rising by +4.3%, Ironmongery up +2.3% and Kitchens & Bathrooms up +1.1%, but Plumbing, Heating & Electrical showed a marginal decrease at -0.2%.
Comparing average sales a day in Q1 2019 and Q4 2018 also shows winners and losers. Sales of Landscaping Products grew by 1.9%, while the small Renewables & Water Saving Products category showed the highest increase at +6.6%. However, with sales values in both the largest categories – Heavy Building Materials and Timber & Joinery Products – dropping by -3%, Total Quarter on Quarter Sales were down by -3%. Kitchens & Bathrooms outperformed the average with a decrease of -0.3%, while Decorating (-3.9%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-4.0 %) both underperformed.
However, the comparison of month on month average sales a day (March v February 2019) was largely positive. Total Month on Month sales were up by +6.5%, led by Landscaping at +27.7%, Renewables & Water Saving (+13.9%) and Heavy Building Materials (+6.8%). Decorating (+5.6%), Timber & Joinery (+4.6%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+1.5%) also saw sales value growth, but Plumbing, Heating & Electrical was down -0.6%.
The BMBI uses GfK’s point of sale tracking data drawn from over 80% of builders’ merchants’ sales throughout the country, making it the most reliable source of data for the sector.
John Newcomb, BMF CEO, said: “Overall there are more positives than negatives within the BMBI Q1 2019 results. At the moment consumer confidence is holding and homeowners continue to invest in RMI projects, but we are still living in uncertain times. No one can say for sure what impact the prolonged uncertainty over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have over the course of the next 12 months.”
Richard Frankcom, Key Account Director at GfK, said: “This time last year we were waiting to see if we’d see merchant sales recover from a weather damaged start to the year, which they did. This year it’s more about how the political situation will affect consumer and business confidence. With value growth still outstripping volume, inflation will be putting the squeeze on already cautious consumers who are a substantial proportion of the RMI market for merchants SME trade customers. Furthermore, any slowdown in house prices may slow the larger house builders land turn, which will further hit trade. Time will tell, but some political clarity would really help.”