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Fri November 22 2019

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Builders' merchant sales start to slow

23 Aug Sales at UK builders’ merchants declined in the second quarter of 2019 – the first such fall in more than five years.

The Builders Merchant Federation (BMF) began tracking members’ sales data at the start of 2014 and until now had only ever seen continued growth.

However, latest figures show that total merchant sales for the Q2 2019 were down 1.2% by value compared to the same period last year.

The month of June was particularly slow, with sales down by 8.1% year on year, albeit with one less trading day than in June 2018.

It was not all downhill though, as there were fewer trading days in Q2 2019 than in Q2 2018. So although total second quarter sales were down, average sales per day were up by 0.4%.

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The BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) uses GfK’s point of sale tracking data drawn from more than 80% of builders’ merchants’ sales throughout the country.

BMF chief executive John Newcomb said: “This is the first quarter we have seen a year on year decline since the BMBI was launched in 2014 but we remain cautiously optimistic that it will prove to be a blip. The slowdown may be weather related, with weather patterns reversed in 2019 and unseasonably wet and windy weather in June delaying work on site, or it may reflect an unwinding in the stockpiling that boosted sales volumes in Q1.  A third possibility is that people are reluctant to commit to buying or improving their homes until Brexit is resolved once and for all.”

GfK insight manager Emile van der Ryst said: “While business and consumer confidence has been impacted by continued Brexit uncertainty in 2019, it is the effect that extreme weather has had on the industry over the past 18 months that stands out.   Q2 2018 sales spiked due to external construction delays in Q1 following the Beast from the East, so assessing Q2 2019 too harshly following a mild winter would be wrong.  Year to date figures still show value growth against 2018 with core sub-categories within the two main product areas driving this performance. Bricks, plasterboards, insulation, timber & flooring have all seen higher than market average increases during the first half of the year, providing a positive indicator that the market continues to plug away with better days hopefully ahead.”

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