The latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report confirms that value sales to builders and contractors by Britain’s builders’ merchants in November 2020 saw its largest year-on-year increase since March 2019, despite stricter COVID-19 restrictions being in place for most of the month.
With builders heeding the Government’s directive to keep construction sites open, total sales in November 2020 were 9.0% higher than in November 2019.
Growth over the period was driven primarily by Landscaping (+29.3%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+16.3%). Sales of Heavy Building Materials (+8.7%) were also above last November’s level.
Total sales in the three months September to November 2020 were 5.7% higher than the same three months in 2019. Landscaping (+25.6%) was particularly strong, with Timber & Joinery Products (+10.6%) also doing well.
Compared with the previous three months (June to August 2020), sales were up 3.3% with all but one of the categories selling more.
Month-on-month data shows the strongest increases compared to October were in the Renewables & Water Saving (+4.6%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+2.9%) categories. Sales in the Landscaping category (-9.5%) fell as colder weather set in.
Year to date sales hit a low point in May (-29.2%) but have steadily improved since then. In the eleven months January to November, total sales were down 11.9% compared with the same months in 2019. Only Landscaping (+4.5%) sold more.
November’s BMBI index was 123.5, with Timber & Joinery Products strongest at 139.9. The index for Heavy Building Materials stood at 119.4.
Kevin Morgan, Group Commercial Director, The Crystal Group, and BMBI’s Expert for PVC-U Windows & Doors, commented: “Demand for PVC-U windows and doors has been strong. So unexpectedly strong, it has triggered supply chain problems, particularly for PVC resin – the raw material for PVC-U profiles from which windows and doors are made.
“For the first time, window profile has been on allocation. Although it happens occasionally in products such as bricks, PVC profiles have never been on allocation.
“Most UK profile extrusion companies are supplied by the same resin producer, a part of the Ineos group, so they are all having trouble getting enough resin to maintain their production.
“Lead times are extending across the industry as production is restricted by profile supply. Reasons include difficulties restarting resin production after maintenance shutdowns.
“Like much of the industry, we have a healthy order book as people continue to stay home and improve their properties. Conservatories are seeing a strong demand spike as an effective way to increase living space without the planning permission needed for an extension. As more people work from home conservatories are an easy way to add extra living space to compensate.
“Online capability is becoming very important and – I agree with Andy Scothern of eCommonSense in the Q2 BMBI report – online is not just a website; it needs to run through the whole business. Recently Jewson invested and escalated its online services during lockdown to great effect, and now supplies a new range from Crystal.
“Currently, many merchants’ customers who need windows for a project go elsewhere to get them. To help merchants access this market we now have seven Crystal Window Centres, which are manned units at merchants to help them promote and sell.
“Crystal is optimistic that strong demand will continue in 2021, and we’re investing in our own manufacturing capacity with new machinery to enable us to fulfil it. Apart from profile supply problems, which we hope will be resolved, the prospects for windows and doors is looking good.”
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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