For the year as a whole, sales were up nearly a third.
The fourth quarter of 2021 saw builders’ merchants taking 15% more money through their tills than in 2020 and 21% more than in 2019.
The quarter on quarter comparison is less relevant – the Christmas break means that sales always dip in the fourth quarter. Compared to Q3, like-for-like sales in Q4 2021, adjusted for the difference in trading days, were down nearly 7%.
However, the revenue growth was largely driven by escalating product prices and not from any increase in products flying off the shelves.
Across the whole of 2021, revenue at British builders’ merchants was up 30.5% on 2020 and up 16.4% against 2019.
Sales of Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, increased by 24% on 2020, with Timber & Joinery increasing by +52% and Landscaping by 31%.
Comparing 2021 with 2019 has provided a more accurate barometer for many merchants. Once again, the same three categories led the way with Heavy Building materials up by nearly 10%, Timber & Joinery by +37.7% and Landscaping 38.4%.
John Newcomb, chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation, said: “This is a year that merchants can look back at with pride. They have shown remarkable adaptability and resilience to overcome testing conditions arising from the Covid crisis that has now affected operations for almost two years. While sales remained strong in 2021, merchants are now facing continuing supply challenges coupled with a 30-year high in the cost of living which will inevitably impact consumer confidence.”
The point-of-sale data is gathered by GfK. Senior client insight manager Emile van der Ryst said: “The coming months bring a dark cloud of even more price increases, further economic difficulties for consumers and potential geopolitical issues further afield. It won’t be an easy year, which makes predictions even more difficult, but there’s an expectation that the market will remain relatively flat. Only time will tell, but right now signs point towards a bumpy year.”