Like-for-like sales at UK builders’ merchants, taking trading day differences into account, were up 12.1% year-on-year in November 2021.
It was a record-breaking month for several categories in the Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) – record-breaking in terms of money through the tills, that is. With rampant inflation in the prices of building materials, there is no indication that sales volumes – cubic metres of timber or tonnes of sand – were up in November. And with merchants’ overheads also continuing to rise rapidly, there is no indication that increased turnover translated into increased profits for the merchants.
However, in terms of financial value, Timber & Joinery Products (+30.2%) recorded its 15th consecutive month of year-on-year sales growth. Renewables & Water Saving (+18.0%) and Landscaping (+17.1%) also put in a strong performance, and Services (+17.1%) had its best-ever monthly sales since the BMBI started in July 2014. Kitchens & Bathrooms (14.5%) had its highest-ever monthly BMBI turnover. Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (13.8%) had its best month of 2021, and Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, also performed strongly (+13.5%).
Compared to November 2019, before the pandemic and before prices started escalating, total merchant value sales were up 28.0% in November 2021, with one more trading day in 2021. Eleven of the 12 categories sold more with Landscaping (+51.4%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+51.3%) still leading the pack.
Heavy Building Materials (+23.4%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+12.1%) were among the eight categories also growing strongly. Only Workwear & Safetywear (-2.9%) sold less. Total like-for-like value sales were 22.2% higher.
Month-on-month total merchant sales were 3.2% up on October 2021, helped by one more trading day in November. Renewables & Water Saving (+15.9%) performed best, followed by Workwear & Safetywear (+13.4%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+12.5%).
Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces the report, said: “After signs that the market had started to slow in October, along comes November with record-breaking and annual best performances across several categories including the largest.
“While Timber & Joinery and Landscaping continue to enjoy a bumper year, November has also seen a resurgence for Kitchens & Bathrooms, which had been held back by lockdowns. We’ll wait to see December’s sales, but it looks like we could be wrapping up 2021 with a strong year for merchants, and a good number of reasons to be optimistic about 2022.”