A strong set of results for the final quarter of 2016 completes a further year of growth in sales of building materials through UK builders merchants. The latest figures from the Builders Merchants Federation’s (BMF) Builders Merchants Building Index Q4 report show that general merchants generated annual revenues in excess of £5.44bn with sales value growth of 5.2% on 2015.
The BMBI report shows total merchant sales in Q4 2016 were up 5.5% on the same period in 2015. A mild, dry autumn helped by extending the season for external works. Landscaping (up 10.3%) and heavy building materials (up 7.1%) were the two best performing categories in Q4, the latter driven by several key sub-categories including roofing products, lintels and plasterboards/plaster products.
Two further categories outperformed the total market in Q4. Sales of kitchens and bathrooms increased by 5.9% year-on-year and ironmongery rose by 5.6%. With five fewer trading days in Q4 vs Q3, total quarter-on-quarter sales were, as expected, lower across most categories. However, plumbing heating and electrical, and workwear and safetywear – two categories directly affected by colder or wetter weather – saw quarter-on-quarter growth of 8% and 6.1% respectively.
John Newcomb, managing director of the BMF, said: “Despite fears around the Brexit vote mid-year, another strong set of results for the final quarter of the year is certainly encouraging. In addition to GfK’s national data in the BMBI report, the BMF’s own sales indicators, which confirm that the final quarter of 2016 wrapped up three years of growth in the sector, provide a valuable insight into regional sales. It is interesting to note that some of the highest percentage increases are currently occurring outside London and the South East, which are normally considered the busiest areas.
“Looking forward, we also found a largely optimistic sentiment in the first post-Brexit State of Trade survey of BMF members, with the majority forecasting further growth in Q1 2017. Against this, however, respondents cited economic uncertainty as the largest expected constraint on sales over the next 12 months, along with uncertain future demand and the impact of rising prices.”