Builders’ merchant sales in April 2021 were 14% higher than in pre-Covid April 2019.
The data gatherers point out that any comparison between April 2021 and April 2020 is meaningless as most stores were shut in April 2020 for the first (and harshest) national lockdown. (The actual figure for April 2021 compared to April 2020 was +419.2%)
Although total merchants sales in April 2021 were -0.9% lower than the previous month, this was because of Easter and three fewer trading days. Average sales a day in April were +14.0% higher than in March, with all categories selling more.
Looking more closely at the 2021 v 2019 figures, Landscaping led the field with sales values increasing by 63.3%, followed by Timber & Joinery (+37.2%). Other product categories grew more slowly, with the largest category, Heavy Building Materials, up by 13.8%, and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical up by 2.3%. Kitchens & Bathrooms (-1.3%) was the only category to sell less in April 2021 than April 2019.
Builders Merchants Federation chief executive John Newcomb said: “Coming off the back of a particularly strong March, the BMBI April figures confirm the continuing high demand for building products across the board, and for timber in particular.
“We know builders’ merchants are doing their utmost to manage demand and supply but forward planning and communication throughout the supply chain is essential. The more information they have from their customers regarding requirements going forward, the better able merchants will be to match this to available stock and provide greater certainty on lead times.”
Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager at GfK Retail & Technology, who puts the numbers together, added: “April has been another exceptional month and the conversations I’ve had with some of the builders’ merchants lead me to believe this strong market performance will continue for a while longer. Key to this will be product availability of certain areas, with cement, steel and timber immediately coming to mind. If availability can be effectively managed this year it will more than have made up for all last year’s challenges.”