Sales to builders and contractors by Britain’s builders’ merchants in December 2020 were 8.8% higher than in the same month the year previous, according to BMBI stats.
Total Q4 sales were also up on Q4 2019, according to the latest Builders Merchants Building Index report. Landscaping (+25.1) was the strongest category in December year-on-year.
Total Builders Merchants value sales in Q4 2020 were up 5.4% compared to Q4 2019. Landscaping continued to perform well with sales up 22.9% on Q4 a year earlier, while Timber & Joinery sales grew by 12.7% over the same period. Sales in the Plumbing, Heating & Electrical category recovered least well (-6.0%).
Total value sales in Q4 2020 were down on the previous quarter (July-September) by 10.8%, the result of a seasonal slowdown, another lockdown and five fewer trading days in Q4. Merchants sold less in all the main categories.
Sales across all categories were down in December compared to November, for similar reasons. However, on a year-on-year basis, merchants’ December sales were up significantly. The two largest categories, Heavy Building Materials and Timber & Joinery Products, were up 6.2% and 20.3% respectively.
Although year-to-date sales were lower than in 2019 due to the impact of Covid-19 closures, overall sales have recovered remarkably well. Over the full 12 months, merchants’ value sales in 2020 were 10.7% lower.
The rate of recovery however, varied between product sectors. Tools (-20.2%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-19.1%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-18.1%) have some way to go.
The BMBI index for Q4 2020 was 111.1. Timber & Joinery Products (125.4) was the strongest category, followed by Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (116.0).
Derrick McFarland, Managing Director Keystone Lintels is BMBI’s Expert for Steel Lintels, commented: “Q4 2020 delivered a strong performance to close the year off. Steel lintel sales achieved double digit growth on Q4 2019, driven by a stimulus of accelerated purchasing ahead of the Brexit deadline.
“On further analysis, this is fairly evenly split by the volume house builders calling off additional material, and steel lintels for merchant stock yards’ over the counter business.
“We have to be thankful that the construction sector remains open, in what have been very distressing times for many loved ones, and very challenging times managing social distancing and positives tests at places of work. This will remain a challenge for 2021.
“We are seeing the raw material steel prices for steel lintels increase at rates never seen before, and the future market shows no sign of this receding.
“This is not necessarily a result of Brexit but is more linked to production cuts in 2020 driven by worldwide lockdowns in response to Covid. We remain watchful on availability, specifically in relation to the levels of steel production across Europe and steel demand.
“Hi-thermal performing lintels with accreditation are the future. At last the new building regulations have been agreed with Part L requiring a 31% improvement in CO2 targets. Critically for the environment, ‘Fabric First’ remains the acknowledged improvement strategy.
“Fabric First means improving the fabric of the building first before reaching for costlier and less efficient solutions. This is due to be implemented in June 2022, and any plot with current regulations not ‘started’ within one year will need to be updated to the new building regulations.
“With tighter quality control requirements from Building Control, we expect the larger sites will switch quicker than we have previously experienced with Building regulation changes.”
BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit www.bmbi.co.uk
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