Figures released in the Builders Merchants Federation’s (BMF) Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) have confirmed that sales through UK builders’ merchants remained strong in April, following record-breaking results in March.
Although total merchant’s sales in April were -0.9% lower than the previous month, this must be viewed in the context of three fewer trading days in April. Average sales a day in April were +14.0% higher than in March, with all categories selling more.
While there is little value in comparing April 2021 with April 2020 (+419.2%) (when many merchants and construction sites were temporarily closed), total sales in April 2021 were +22.1% higher than in April 2019, pre-COVID, with 11 of the 12 product categories recording higher sales.
Looking more closely at the 2021 versus 2019 figures, landscaping led the field with sales values increasing by +63.3%, followed by timber and joinery (+37.2%). Other product categories grew more slowly, with the largest category, heavy building materials, up by +13.8%, and plumbing, heating and electrical, up by +2.3%. Meanwhile, kitchens and bathrooms (-1.3%) was the only category to sell less in April 2021 than April 2019.
John Newcomb, chief executive officer of the BMF, said: “Coming off the back of a particularly strong March, the BMBI April figures confirm the continuing high demand for building products across the board, and for timber in particular.
“We know builders’ merchants are doing their utmost to manage demand and supply, but forward planning and communication throughout the supply chain is essential. The more information they have from their customers regarding requirements going forward, the better able merchants will be to match this to available stock and provide greater certainty on lead times.”
Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager – trade at GfK Retail & Technology UK, added: “April has been another exceptional month and the conversations I’ve had with some of the builders’ merchants lead me to believe this strong market performance will continue for a while longer. Key to this will be product availability of certain areas, with cement, steel and timber immediately coming to mind. If availability can be effectively managed this year it will more than have made up for all last year’s challenges.”