Fourth quarter merchants’ sales higher despite weak December: BMBI

  • 27 Feb 2019

Total Builders Merchants value sales to builders and contractors in the fourth quarter of 2018 were up 3.1% compared with Q4 2017, say the BMBI.

This was helped by top-performing category Timber & Joinery (+6.1%), as well as Landscaping (+5.2%), Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+4.4%) and Decorating (+4.1%) also did better.

The fourth quarter Builders Merchant Building Index was 110.6. Plumbing Heating & Electrical (128.1) did best, with Ironmongery (115.8) and Timber & Joinery (114.7) also doing well.

Overall merchants’ sales in December 2018 were 1.0% higher than in December 2017. Four categories fared better, led by Landscaping (+6.7%). Decorating (+2.9%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+2.7%) also performed better.

However seven categories sold less, with Tools dropping 3.1% and Kitchens & Bathrooms down 5.2%. Workwear & Safetywear (-7.2%) was weakest.

Merchants’ sales in 2018 as a whole were 3.8% higher than in 2017. Four categories did better, led by Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+7.1%), with Timber & Joinery Products (+7.0%) just behind.


Paul Roughan, Trade Merchants Sales Director at Dulux Trade and BMBI’s Expert for Paint (pictured), commented: “The trade paint market finished with a strong December performance – a year-on-year growth of 1.9% in volume compared to December 2017.

“We have now seen six months of consecutive year-on-year volume growth in the market, a pattern which we’ve not seen since 2015. Emulsions played a major part in the paint categories driving this growth.

“The great summer weather also helped with perfect exterior decorating conditions and both masonry paint and exterior trim categories grew last year.

“With the second half of the year playing catch-up and compensating for extreme weather delays in quarter one, total volumes for 2018 finished flat compared to 2017.

“Several economic and housing indicators reflect a weaker market position towards the end of 2018. Consumer confidence fell by one point in December to its lowest point for five years – surely a reflection of the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit.

“In the housing market, new buyer enquiries fell by 21% in November and mortgage approvals in November were down by 1.7%. These two indicators hugely influence the paint market, as private housing RMI is by far its biggest sector.

“Fewer people moving home, means fewer people employing decorators to decorate their homes. With 69% of ‘paint appliers’ working mainly in private homes, this presents some broader challenges for our industry.

“The latest BMBI report shows Decorating grew at a faster rate in both Q4 and December (year-on-year). However BMBI monthly indices, which are based on the period July 2014 to June 2015 and track long-term trends, show decorating as one of the under performing categories and this has been a constant trend since early 2016.

“There is a real opportunity though for builders’ merchants; small generalist builders are a growing sector and indicators show they are buying more paint.

“Although there is a decline in confidence and an investment hesitancy that’s affecting the construction industry, there is steady value growth. Builders’ merchants that have the right products in the right place with staff who understand decorating products can leverage this opportunity, and profit from increased paint sales.”

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