Building materials sales
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Sales of building materials continued their upward growth trend during Q1 2021, as the boom in construction activity offers a helping hand

Q1 2021 building materials sales volumes continued the upward trend seen in Q4 2020, and compared well with the pre-Covid levels seen in Q1 2019, according to the latest report from the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI).

Looking at Q1 2021 in detail, January was down -3.7% on the same month the previous year, with February seeing annual growth of 2.3%. March however was a record month for the industry, with building materials sales increasing by 47.4% against March 2020 and by 23.0% against March 2019.

This results in overall Q1 growth of 15.1% against Q1 2020 and 6.0% against Q1 2019.

The figures also confirm overall growth of 8.6% against Q4 2020.

Q1 2021 vs Q1 2020

The strongest year on year performers for building materials sales were landscaping, up by 41.4% on Q1 2020, and timber & joinery (+30.5%).

Sales of tools increased by 15.9% year on year, and were also up for the largest product group, heavy building materials sales rose by 10.3% and plumbing, heating and electrical products increased by 3.7%.

Workwear and safetywear (-8.9%), one of the strongest performers a year ago when PPE was in great demand, was one of only four categories to record a fall in year on year sales for the quarter.

‘A boom in activity’

John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation, said: “The first three months of the year may have seen the country once again in lockdown but even this could not prevent a boom in construction activity.

“This is an excellent start to the year and we are already seeing strong product demand in many areas, notably timber which has been one of the main drivers for growth during the quarter.

“Managing product demand and supply will be a recurring theme this year and the Construction Leadership Council, product availability group, which I co-chair, is issuing monthly updates to assist with forward planning.”

Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager of trade at GfK, added: “To say the first quarter, and March in particular, has gone well is an understatement.

“It was not only the big hitters such as timber, bricks, aggregates, insulation, cement and plasterboard reporting record sales, but also areas such as tool hire, plumbing equipment, power tools, hand tools, boilers, tanks and boiler accessories.

“Repair, maintenance and improvement is expected to be the main driver during the first half of the year, and quite possibly beyond, which bodes well for the industry if supply can keep up with demand.”

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