Figures for the third quarter of 2020 published in the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) reflect the resilience of the sector, with sales bouncing back to near normal levels.
Comparing Q3 and Q2 2020, sales values highlight the dramatic impact of the first lockdown earlier in the year, with total Builders’ Merchants’ sales up by 63.2% in Q3 (53.2% when adjusted for trading days in each quarter).
September 2020 sales delivered a particularly strong performance, increasing by +8.3% compared to September 2019, albeit with one extra trading day.
Looking at year on year changes, total Builders’ Merchants’ sales in Q3 2020 saw growth of 1% compared to Q3 2019. Of the two largest categories, Timber & Joinery grew by 3.5% in value from Q3 2019, while Heavy Building Materials saw a decrease of 1%.
Landscaping was the big winner with year on year sales growth of 24.2% in value, with performance driven by Decking, Garden Walling / Paving and Fencing & Gates, which all saw substantial growth from last year.
Timber was the key driver in Timber & Joinery growth, with Cladding also contributing. Heavy Building Materials’ small decline was due to a mix of both single digit increases and decreases across the board, with Aggregates, Bricks, Cement and Roofing Products the best performing subcategories.
However, year on year sales declined in some categories, with both Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-11.9%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-7.1%) down on Q3 2019.
Only Landscaping and Workwear & Safetywear have seen growth year to date, increasing by 1.5% and 1.2% respectively. Workwear & Safetywear Q3 growth was also up by 8.0% in value as COVID-19 safety requirements remain at the forefront.
Commenting on the Q3 sales data, John Newcomb, BMF CEO said: “The level of activity over the summer and early autumn has been extremely encouraging, but we must also recognise that this has been against a backdrop of furlough payments, stamp duty holidays and continuing work on existing sites.
“It remains to be seen how consumer confidence holds up going forward. The construction industry should benefit from government initiatives such as the Green Homes Grant, which has just been extended through to March 2022. But with lockdown measures continuing throughout the nations of the UK we are likely to see more volatility in the coming months.”
Emile van der Ryst, Senior Client Insight Manager – Trade at GfK, added: “There is an expectation that the remainder of the year will be more challenging due to the second lockdown, but the merchant sector will benefit from being allowed to remain open for trading.
“Digital development will continue at a rapid pace, while looking further ahead, Brexit will bring its own challenges in 2021. The recent performance does however underline some positivity after this turbulent and uncertain year.”