UK builders merchants experience sales growth in Q1 2019

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UK builders merchants experienced positive sales during the first quarter of the year, according to the BMF’s latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI)

Total Q1 sales for builders merchants were up +5.9% in 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.

Landscaping products saw the strongest annual value growth of +15.6%. The two largest product categories also performed well with heavy building materials up +6.8% and timber and joinery products rising by +6.6%. Sales in all three product groups were adversely weather-affected in 2018, so a stronger performance during a relatively mild, dry winter was to be expected.

There was a mixed picture for interior product groups, with decorating rising by +4.3%, ironmongery up +2.3% and kitchens and bathrooms up +1.1%, but plumbing, heating and electrical showed a marginal decrease at -0.2%.

Comparing average sales a day in Q1 2019 and Q4 2018 for builders merchants also shows winners and losers. Sales of landscaping products grew by 1.9%, while the small renewables and water saving products category showed the highest increase at +6.6%.

However, the comparison of month on month average sales a day (March v February 2019) was largely positive. Total month on month sales was up by +6.5%, led by landscaping at +27.7%, renewables and water saving +13.9% and heavy building materials +6.8%.

The BMBI uses GfK’s point of sale tracking data drawn from over 80% of builders merchants sales throughout the country.

John Newcomb, BMF CEO, said: “Overall there are more positives than negatives within the BMBI Q1 2019 results. At the moment consumer confidence is holding and homeowners continue to invest in RMI projects, but we are still living in uncertain times.

“No one can say for sure what impact the prolonged uncertainty over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have over the course of the next 12 months.”

Richard Frankcom, key account director at GfK added: “This time last year we were waiting to see if we’d see merchant sales recover from a weather-damaged start to the year, which they did.  This year it’s more about how the political situation will affect consumer and business confidence.

“With value growth still outstripping volume, inflation will be putting the squeeze on already cautious consumers who are a substantial proportion of the RMI market for merchants SME trade customers.

“Furthermore, any slowdown in house prices may slow the larger housebuilders land turn, which will further hit trade. Time will tell, but some political clarity would really help.”

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