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Thu March 04 2021

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Builders’ merchants in recession

24 Feb 20 Point-of-sale data from the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) indicates that its members have endured three consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Sales figures for the fourth quarter of 2019 in the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) shows another drop to round off a difficult year for the sector.

Average sales per day in Q4 2019 were 5.2% below Q3 2019. With Q4 having six fewer trading days than Q3, total sales in Q4 were 13.9% down on Q3.  

Year-on-year, total sales in Q4 2019 were 4.0% below Q4 2018, and down 2.4% on a ‘per day’ basis.

The BMBI uses GfK’s point of sale tracking data drawn from more than 80% of builders’ merchants’ sales throughout the UK.

Across 2019 as a whole, builders’ merchants experienced marginal sales growth of 0.1% compared to 2018, despite 2019 having one less trading day.

Four product categories saw the value of their sales fall in 2019. Tools was the largest drop, decreasing by 6.3%. Timber & Joinery was down 1.0%; Heavy Building Material down 0.1%, and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical down 0.3%, year-on-year.

BMF chief executive John Newcomb said: “The final quarter of 2019 didn’t give builders’ merchants much to cheer about and the same can be said for the year as a whole. The Brexit drama dominated headlines and created uncertainty across all spheres of business in the UK, including the builders’ merchant industry.  Differing weather events in 2019 versus 2018 also played a part. Looking forward, Q1 2020 could bring another bumpy ride.  Word on the merchant grapevine is that January trading was more positive, but with storms Ciara and Dennis in February, we are unlikely to see a Boris Bounce just yet.”

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