Unsurprisingly, plant sales were particularly down in March when the coronavirus crisis began to emerge in the UK.
Equipment sales in January and February 2020 were down by just 6% compared with the same months of 2019. This was in line with expectations for sales this year, with a further single-digit decline expected for the full year compared to 2019. However, in March, sales crashed by 45% compared with March 2019, and this took the overall reduction for the quarter to 22%.
The number of items of machinery in the monitored categories (see chart) was just below 6,300 units in the first quarter of 2020, compared with over 8,000 units in the first quarter of 2019. In March 2020, sales were just below 1,800 units, compared with more than 3,200 in March 2019.
The first graph shows quarterly sales on an index basis from the construction equipment statistics exchange using Q1 2018 as 100 (baseline). This illustrates how sales have been on a downward path since 2018. UK sales have a distinct seasonal pattern, normally showing a rise in the first quarter of each year from the fourth quarter of the previous year. However, in 2020, Q1 sales have stayed at similar levels to Q4 2019.
The second graph shows sales for the major equipment types in the first quarter compared with Q1 last year. This shows that the most popular equipment type, mini and midi excavators (up to 10 tonnes), were the most resilient in Q1, and only showed a fall of 9%. All the other types of equipment experienced falls of 27% or more, with compaction rollers seeing the biggest decline, in excess of 60% compared with Q1 2019.