The latest figures from the Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI), published in April, reveal that builders’ merchants’ value sales in February 2022 were 22.9% up on the same month in 2021, continuing January’s solid start to the year. However, this was driven more by price inflation (+13.4%) than volume growth (+8.3%).
By comparison, all categories sold more in February 2022 than the previous year. Landscaping (+33.7%) did best. Five categories did better than Merchants overall, including Timber and Joinery Products (+25.6%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+25.2%). Plumbing, Heating and Electrical (+15.0%), Decorating (+14.2%), and Tools (+8.8%) grew more slowly. Workwear & Safetywear (+1.0%) was weakest.
Compared to February 2019, a pre-pandemic year, total merchant value sales were 22.6% higher. All categories sold more, with overall growth driven by the strength of two categories: Landscaping (+51.1%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+38.3%). Kitchen & Bathrooms (+17.4%), Heavy Building Materials (+16.5%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+10.4%) were among the categories which grew more slowly.
Total sales in the three months from December 2021 to February 2022 were 21.4% up than the same period last year with no difference in trading days. All categories sold more. Landscaping (+28.0%) was strongest, closely followed by Timber & Joinery Products (+27.5%). Kitchens & Bathrooms (+22.0%), Heavy Building Materials (+20.1%) and Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+15.0%) also grew strongly.
Compared to the same three months in 2018/19, sales were 20.5% higher in the most recent period with no difference in trading days. All categories sold more but Landscaping (+42.9%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+38.4%) both did particularly well.
Month-on-month total merchant sales were 7.5% up in February 2022 compared to January 2022, with no difference in trading days. All bar three categories sold more including Landscaping (+28.6%), Kitchens & Bathrooms (+10.6%) and Heavy Building Materials (+7.7%).
Total Merchants sales in the 12 months March 2021 to February 2022 were 34.6% higher than in the same 12 months a year earlier, with no difference in trading days. All categories sold more. Timber & Joinery Products (+54.1%) was significantly ahead of other product categories. Plumbing, Heating & Electrical, (+28.9%) and Heavy Building Materials (+28.4%) grew more slowly.
“It’s still too early to tell how 2022 is going to go, whether the intensity of 2021 will continue this year or whether it will be more of a ‘levelling up’ year in terms of demand, as the world returns to normality.
“The volume house builders are reporting several months of advanced sales already secured for 2022. But as inflation hits, home improvement spend will be competing with opportunities to go on holidays. The availability of labour to complete projects though, is most likely to be the deciding factor.
“Allocation in the steel lintel market continues as further price increases are implemented in Q1, and lead times are longer than normal. Access to raw materials has indeed improved throughout the supply chain and finished goods stock holding is getting back to normal levels too.
“While things are looking up, my best advice is to embrace the lead times and place orders in time. We are recommending that our merchant customers keep stock levels high as we head into the summer months.
“In fact, we are actively building stocks in advance of Q3 2022 when we expect the traditional holiday season to impact labour availability. To support our stocking merchants, we are adding over 150 additional Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) to our stock range to build a greater depth and breadth of product offer. This focus on new products and energy saving will also cover wider cavity lintels and be duplicated in our Hi-therm range.”
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