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Landscaping products prop up merchants' sales

24 Aug 20 Builders’ merchants across mainland Britain saw their sales fall by more than a third in the Covid-hit second quarter of 2020 but landscaping sales saw a resurgence in June.

Sales figures for the second quarter of 2020 in the Builders Merchant Federation’s builders merchants building index (BMBI) reflect the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the construction industry with the sector down by 38.6% on Q2 2019. 

In April, when much of the country was in full lockdown, saw a year-on-year decline of 76.5% as most merchants only provided essential deliveries to active trade account holders.  May was down 39.9% on the previous year as restrictions were relaxed, while June sales were up +2.2% on June 2019, helped by two more trading days this year and a surge in sales of landscaping products.

In June there was year-on-year growth of 50.3% in landscaping products, with garden walling/paving, fencing & gates and decking all much in demand.

Landscaping was the strongest performer across the whole quarter, but still down 13.3% on Q2 2019, followed by Workwear & Safetywear, which fell by 31.2% on 2019.

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Sales of Tools were down 58.6% in Q2 2020 compared to 2019; Ktchens & Bathrooms were down 57.9% and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical was down 53.1%.

Sales of Heavy Building Materials was down by 38.4% on Q2 2019 (and by 26.7% on Q1 2020) and Timber & Joinery sales were down 39.8% on the previous year and by 28.1% against Q1 this year.

However, both performed better in June with Timber up 1.4% on the previous year and Heavy Building Materials up 0.2%, driven by demand for cement, aggregates and roofing materials.

BMF chief executive John Newcomb said: “The initial impact of Covid-19 was industry-wide and merchant sales figures reflect other industry indicators for the quarter.  In the first few days of the crisis, many construction sites, builders’ merchants and manufacturers temporarily closed before putting Covid-secure measures in place, which pretty much wrote off April.  Sales in May and, in particular, in June improved, but we are not out of the woods yet. Unfortunately, closing production lines led to shortages in certain product areas which is taking some time to unwind.  We are also now experiencing quarantines for returning travellers and local lockdowns.  Add Brexit and economic uncertainty to this and it is bound to impact consumer confidence.  The remainder of the year is impossible to predict, but I think everyone is expecting a bumpy ride.”

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