Before the 8% reduction in sales in the fourth quarter (compared with Q4 2017), the trend over the previous two years had been to show steady, but slowing growth on a quarterly basis.
Retail sales in the UK market reached nearly 31,000 units, according to the construction equipment statistics exchange. Among the most popular machine types, crawler excavators (over 10 tonnes) showed the strongest growth, with sales 16% ahead of 2017 levels, by unit. Sales of mini/midi excavators (under 10 tonnes) were up 4% for the year.
The equipment type showing the weakest performance in 2018 was telehandlers, whose sales to the construction industry specifically (as opposed to farmers) were down 10% in 2018 after a weak second-half of the year.
The data are compiled by Systematics International on behalf of the Construction Equipment Association (CEA).
Construction output in the UK in 2018 showed only 0.7% growth, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was the lowest level of year-on-year growth for the construction industry for five years. Against this background, 2% growth in sales of construction equipment can be considered as a positive performance for the year, with sustained demand from the rental sector a key factor, the CEA said.
In contrast with domestic sales, UK exports of construction and earthmoving equipment showed very strong growth in 2018, according to official customs data from HM Revenue & Customs. This shows that exports reached £3,473m, an increase of 19% on 2017. Imports of equipment also increased in 2018 to £1,633m, which was 11% higher than 2017. As a result, the overall trade surplus for construction equipment showed a 28% increase in 2018, reaching £1,839m.