Total builders’ merchant sales in February 2020 were down 1.3% compared with February 2019. This followed a 2.6% year-on-year decline in January 2020.
However, February sales were 2.2% higher than they had been in the previous month, despite having two fewer trading days.
February pre-dated the introduction of social distancing (which started on 19th March) and the lockdown (which took effect on 24th March), hence merchants’ February trading will not have been much affected by the emerging coronavirus pandemic.
Year-on year in February, three categories were weaker: Timber & Joinery Products (-6.9%); Tools (-4.0%) and Heavy Building Materials (-1.9%). Among the seven categories that sold more this year, Workwear & Safetywear showed strong growth (+30.8%) driven by higher demand for protective equipment (including masks, goggles and gloves). Landscaping sold 7.4% more and Kitchens & Bathrooms grew by 3.5%.
Comparing February with January, eight categories sold more, led by Landscaping (+16.5%) – despite it being the wettest February on record. Kitchens & Bathrooms (+7.8%) and Workwear & Safetywear (+6.8%) also did well. Four categories sold less, including Timber & Joinery Products (-2.2%) and Plumbing Heating & Electrical (-1.5%). Average sales a day (which takes trading day differences into account) were 12.4% higher than in January and all categories increased.
Sales in the three months December 2019 to February 2020 were 1.2% lower than in the same period a year earlier. Nine categories did better, including Workwear & Safetywear (+14.1%) and Landscaping (+5.3%). However Timber & Joinery Products (-6.0%) and Tools (-4.8%) were weaker.
The 12 months March 2019 to February 2020 were down 0.9% on the same period a year earlier, with one less trading day. Average sales a day in the last 12 months were down 0.5%.