The 2019 Builders Merchants market report from MTW Research has revealed that building product sales will rise by £400m in 2019, despite the impact of Brexit dampening construction confidence
Based on building product sales from 80% of the construction industry, the report suggests that whilst growth will slow in 2019, opportunities remain healthy with merchants increasingly supplying to a wider range of more specialist contractors.
As a result, builders’ merchants are adapting their product and service portfolio to cater to these more specialist demands and generate improved margins.
MTW found that building product profitability rose by £20m last year and is set to rise further in 2019. Despite this, the report noted that lower growth in construction and refurbishment activity represents a key threat to those merchants unable to adapt quickly enough to changing market conditions.
Commenting on the findings, MTW’s director Mark Waddy said: “Since our last report, the builders’ merchants market has deteriorated, though growth continues with 80% of merchants reporting growth in the last 12 months.
“Our analysis also identified an underlying strength in the market with over 80% of builders merchants having good or excellent credit ratings in 2019.”
The 200-page report found that end users, specifiers and contractors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable in 2019 through the use of the internet. This is prompting builders’ merchants and product manufacturers to undertake enhanced product development, and offer better support and advice in order to add value and grow profitability. As a result, MTW forecast profitability will rise by 22% to 2023, providing underlying optimism in an increasingly challenging trading environment in 2019.
MTW’s analysis includes product shares with lightside building products gaining share as lower levels of confidence and investment activity impact heavyside building materials in 2019. Merchants are increasingly serving smaller renovation projects in order to maintain revenues in 2019, though some demand growth is coming from the SME housebuilding market, according to MTW.
MTW’s analysis of builders’ merchants financials found that with margins coming under pressure, borrowing has risen rapidly and is set to rise further in 2019. The report suggests that merchants will borrow more than £15bn in 2019 as market conditions remain difficult and organic growth elusive. By 2020, total borrowing will have risen by more than £500m, according to MTW.
Despite some short term difficulties, the report forecasts a generally optimistic trading environment in the next few years in a ‘post Brexit era’.