Builders' Merchants' sales to builders surge in September

Friday 27th November 2020
Steve Durdant-Hollamby MD of Polypipe Civils & Green Infrastructure gives comment on BMBI Report

Latest BMBI quarterly report reveals Builders’ Merchants’ sales to builders surge in September Sales to builders by Britain’s builders’ merchants surged in September, with sales up 8.3% compared with September 2019, according to the latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report.


Q3 2020 sales also increased compared to the same period last year (+1%) and were significantly up on Q2 2020 (+63.2%) when many merchants were closed. Kitchens & Bathrooms saw the strongest quarter-on-quarter recovery (+131%), but Q3 sales were down 7.1% year-on-year.


Year-on-year, landscaping Q3 sales are 24.2% up, its highest level since the index was set up in 2015. Workwear & Safetywear, up 8% compared to Q3 last year, benefited from a continued focus on PPE, while Timber & Joinery was up 3.5% over the same period.


Although year-to-date sales were lower than in 2019 due to the impact of Covid-19 closures, overall sales had recovered strongly by September. The rate of recovery however, varied between product sectors. While two sectors - landscaping materials (+1.5%) and Workwear & Safetywear (+1.2%) - are ahead of January to September 2019, Kitchens & Bathrooms have some way to go, and Heavy Building Materials is 16.1% behind the same period last year.


Expert comment from Polypipe Civils & Green Infrastructure Managing Director, Steve Durdant-Hollamby:


“Having seen Covid restrictions ease and relatively consistent trading return to all civils sectors, we’re now moving a couple of steps back with limitations on personal movement. The key difference now is that we have experience of what this means commercially. Like most businesses in the supply chain, we have become familiar with all the necessary hygiene measures to maintain safe working environments. We also have clear, unequivocal guidance from government that construction should keep sites open.


“Initial signs are that these new lockdown measures are having minimal impact – trading remains steady and order books relatively healthy. The knock-on of lack of availability of certain materials and skilled labour creates uncertainty and the potential for project delays. It is too early to tell quite what the impact on the civils market will be, but the last six months indicate that, weather aside, it should be minimal.


“The widening of material options to include plastic in the sewer market, brought about by the recent changes to the codes governing adoptability, is beginning to see new opportunities. As with all such fundamental changes to regulations, it’s knowledge and expert advice that unlocks the full commercial potential. In our current situation, digital learning platforms are effective in delivering information tailored to the needs of the audience.


“Green Urbanisation: As the pandemic continues, more research is being conducted into the monetary value of having access to greenspaces. ‘Natural Capital Accounting’ allows changes to urban green ecosystems to be mapped in economic return. This allows green infrastructure to be added to regional balance sheets and, as a result, to shape planning policy and development requirements. In 2021 we expect an updated Environment bill will set targets of a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain on all new developments. This will be an important shift in planning regulation and will require new solutions centred on green urbanisation techniques and Natural Capital Accounting.


“The need for enhanced environmental return on development is becoming fundamental to highways and rail infrastructure. Green corridors, created along these linear assets, will allow sustainable interconnections between urban centres, allowing species migration and enhancing resilience to the impacts of climate change and population expansion.”


Developed and run by MRA Research, the BMBI – a brand of the Builders Merchant Federation - is a monthly index of builders’ merchant sales, and the most reliable, up-to-date measure of Repair, Maintenance, and Improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. The data is actual sales from GfK’s Builders’ Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data, which captures value sales out to builders from generalist builders’ merchants, accounting for over 80% of total sales from builders merchants throughout Great Britain.


Read the latest BMBI report here.

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