Builders’ merchants bounce back in Q3 2020

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Builders’ merchants sales bounced back to near normal levels in Q3 2020, as BMF warns ‘we are likely to see more volatility in the coming months’

The BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) has revealed that Q3 2020, compared with Q2, highlights the dramatic impact the first lockdown had on the industry.

Total builders’ merchants sales increased by 63.2% in Q3.

September 2020 sales delivered a particularly strong performance, rising by 8.3% compared to September 2019.

Looking at year on year changes, total builders’ merchants sales in Q3 2020 saw growth of 1% compared to Q3 2019.

Of the two largest categories, timber & joinery grew by 3.5% in value from Q3 2019, while heavy building materials decreased by 1%.

Landscaping was the big winner with year on year sales growing by 24.2%, with performance-driven by decking, garden walling/paving and fencing & gates, which all saw substantial growth from last year.

Timber was the key driver in timber & joinery growth, with cladding also contributing.

The small decline in heavy building materials was due to a mix of both single-digit increases and decreases across the board, with aggregates, bricks, cement and roofing products the best performing subcategories.

Despite this, year on year sales declined in some categories, with both plumbing, heating & electrical down by 11.9% and kitchens & bathrooms decreasing by 7.1% in Q3 2019.

‘Volatility in the coming months’

John Newcomb, BMF CEO, said: “The level of activity over the summer and early autumn has been extremely encouraging, but we must also recognise that this has been against a backdrop of furlough payments, stamp duty holidays and continuing work on existing sites.

“It remains to be seen how consumer confidence holds up going forward.

“The construction industry should benefit from government initiatives such as the Green Homes Grant, which has just been extended through to March 2022.

“But with lockdown measures continuing throughout the nations of the UK we are likely to see more volatility in the coming months.”

Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager – trade at GfK, added: “There is an expectation that the remainder of the year will be more challenging due to the second lockdown, but the merchant sector will benefit from being allowed to remain open for trading.

“Digital development will continue at a rapid pace, while looking further ahead, Brexit will bring its own challenges in 2021.

“The recent performance does however underline some positivity after this turbulent and uncertain year.”

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