Q4 sales in the merchant sector during 2014 show a -5.2% fall, when adjusted for seasonal trading days, according to the latest sales figures released by rthe GfK Builders' Merchant Panel.

In total sales value, the Q4 data shows negative growth of -13.5% on the previous quarter. However, multiple trading days were lost in December due to public holidays (17 trading days v 20 in November). Eliminating the trading day variable, by looking at average daily sales, gives a sales trend of -5.2% for Q3 on Q4.

Q4 saw total sales of £1.17bn over 60 trading days (£19.8m per trading day), while Q3 reported total sales of £1.34bn over 65 trading days (£20.7m per trading day).

While sales values in October were marginally above those in September (£460m compared to £459m), there were month-on-month declines in both November (£406m, -13.1%) and December (£309m, -31.4%)

BMF managing director John Newcomb said: "The effect of seasonal trading is evident in these figures, and is to be expected. It is particularly interesting to note the shift in sales from external sectors, heavy building materials and landscaping, to internal sectors from Q3 to Q4.

"Sales of heavy building materials dropped back in Q4. With 46.3% of the total sales within the heavy building materials category this quarter, the weakening demand towards the year end had a major impact on total market performance."

Sales of heavy building materials in Q4 declined by 14.1% on Q3, while sales of landscaping products declined by 32.40%. However, plumbing, heating & electrical sales rose by 8.6%, reflecting an unsurprising move to interior trades as winter sets in.

Plumbing, heating & electrical sales accounted for 5.6% of the total market share in Q4, up from 4.5% in Q3.

Heavy building materials fell back to 46.3% in Q4 from 47.2% in Q3. Landscaping fell back to 6.5% in Q4 from 8.4% in Q3. Sales of timber and joinery products declined by 11.6% but their share of total sales remained constant accounting for 21.2% in Q4 and 21% in Q3.