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Builders' merchants sales bounce back

Sales data from Britain's builders' merchants indicate a solid V-shaped recovery for the industry.

Sales data from Britain's builders' merchants indicate a solid V-shaped recovery for the industry.

Builders' merchants’ sales bounced back strongly in the three months May to July, surging 38.9% ahead in value compared with February to April.

Sales of landscaping material more than doubled (up 130% over the three-month period). Timber & Joinery Products followed, rising 44%. Heavy Building Materials sales were up 36%.

In July 2020 sales of building materials were only 1.3% below July 2019 and some categories were ahead. Month-on-month, July sales were up 8.7% on June 2020.

“These sales figures demonstrate the resilience and strength of a V-shaped recovery in the sector,” said Mike Rigby, chief executive of MRA Research which produces the monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) reports.

“Builders’ merchants sell to a variety of markets, including new build, but their customers – general builders, developers, and other trades – are the backbone of the housing RMI [repair maintenance and improvement] market. The ONS [Office for National Statistics] provisional estimates for the same three months, May to July, are seemingly at odds with these figures, putting overall construction down 10.6%, with RMI falling 12.4% and private housing RMI dropping by 17.9%.

“But a note of caution: we’re not comparing apples with apples”, he continued. “ONS numbers are provisional estimates based on a sample survey, and as more information comes in the estimates are revised. However, GfK’s builders’ merchant point of sale tracking data, on which the Builders Merchant Building Index is based, is different. It’s not a sample survey and it’s much more focused. It doesn’t include every element of housing RMI, but it includes the bulk of it and it’s a very good proxy for repair, maintenance and improvement. The data is actual value sales out to builders from generalist builders’ merchants, accounting for over 80% of total sales from builders merchants throughout Great Britain. It’s also validated before publishing, so it doesn’t get revised.”

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