Derrick McFarland

Merchant sales down in April but sales per day reach a new high

  • 26 Jun 2017

April’s Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) showed builders’ merchants’ sales to builders and contractors were 6.3% lower than in April 2016, due to three fewer trading days. 

All but two categories sold less. Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, was 6.6% lower, with Workwear & Safetywear (-11.6%) and Plumbing Heating & Electrical (-11.5%) weakest.

However, average sales per day in April were 9.3% higher than in April 2016, reaching a record high in the 22 months since the BMBI report was first published. All categories were up and four did better than merchants generally, including Landscaping (+16.8%) and Ironmongery (+11.1%).

With a difference of five trading days between April and March, absolute sales dropped 13.1% month-on-month but average sales per day were 11.1% higher. Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, was in line with merchants overall but Timber & Joinery Products was slightly lower, down 15.1% on sales value and up 8.5% on sales per day. 

The BMBI index for April was 106.7.

BMBI April 2017 Monthly sales chart showing the trading day effect

Derrick McFarland, Managing Director Keystone Lintels, BMBI’s Expert for Steel Lintels comments: “Steel lintel volumes increased by around 6% in the first quarter compared with the first three months of 2016. These figures will be distorted slightly by price increases at the beginning of the year, which affected buying patterns. 

“The spring weather has been kind, and the Housebuilding sector at full-steam delivering a steady output of new homes. Smaller builders and extension work started the year slower, but it’s improving. The industry’s enquiry bank has seen double digit growth over the first quarter, and the enquiry to conversion rate is high, providing strong indicators for the coming months.

“If, as we’re projecting, 2017 continues its steady climb over 2016 we’d all be delighted, but the squeeze on incomes, labour availability, and continuing house price trends will be challenging. We’re already seeing the effects of labour availability shortages on site with timber frame experiencing growth in orders from Housebuilders. While hardly Modern Methods of Construction, timber frame ticks all the time and labour saving boxes for off-site construction.”

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