Builders’ merchants’ value sales down 7.2% in Q1 compared to a year ago

Builders’ merchants’ value sales down 7.2% in Q1 compared to a year ago

The latest Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report reveals builders’ merchants’ value sales in Q1 2024 were 7.2% down compared to Q1 2023, with volume sales falling 8.7% and prices edging up +1.6%. 

With one less trading day in Q1 2024, like-for-like sales (which take the number of trading days into account) were 5.7% lower.

The two largest categories – Timber & Joinery Products (-10.6%) and Heavy Building Materials (-9.4%) – both sold less. 

Quarter-on-quarter, total value sales for Q1 2024 were up +3.5% compared to Q4 2023. Volume sales were +3.9% higher and prices were flat (-0.4%). With three additional trading days in the most recent period, like-for-like sales were -1.4% lower. All but one category sold more with Landscaping (+14.6%) growing the most.

Q1 total value sales were negatively impacted by slow sales in March. Total builders’ merchants value sales for the month fell 13.6% compared to March 2023. Volume sales dropped -14.0% while prices edged up +0.5%. With three less trading days in March this year, like-for-like sales were -0.6% lower.

All categories sold less in March, with Landscaping down by 6.8%, and Heavy Building Materials (-15.2%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-17.7%) significantly down on the same month last year.

Month-on-month, total merchant sales were +3.7% higher in March 2024 than in February 2024. Volume sales were up +4.7% and prices were down -1.0%. Half of the twelve categories sold more with two of the largest categories, Landscaping (+20.1%) and Heavy Building Materials (+3.9%), outperforming total merchants. 

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research which produces the report, said wet weather in Q1 and a hold on interest rates did little to revive the faltering newbuild market, citing recent NHBC figures of a 20% drop in new home registrations in the quarter compared to a year ago.

“Despite the clouds hanging over the sector – figuratively and literally – there may be a break ahead,” said Mr Rigby. 

“The latest ONS data for Q1 shows a marked increase in new construction orders (+15.9% quarter-on-quarter), buoyed by private commercial orders for offices, health and entertainment premises, while GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index shows another 2-point increase in consumer confidence in April, following a positive March. 

“The consumer confidence Overall Index Score is still negative (-19), but it’s a vast improvement on the picture a year before, with five of the underlying measures significantly better than April last year.

“Could lowering inflation and the promise of tax and interest rate relief and the prospect of a new Government be boosting consumer confidence? If so, it could be a welcome shot in the arm for the housing market – and merchants and their suppliers – as we head into summer.”

Set up and run by MRA Research, the BMBI – a brand of the Builders Merchants Federation – is a monthly index of builders’ merchant sales, and the most reliable, up-to-date measure of Repair, Maintenance, and Improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. The index is based on actual sales from GfK’s Builders’ Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data, which captures value sales out to builders from generalist builders’ merchants, accounting for 88% of total sales from builders’ merchants throughout Great Britain.

The Q1 2024 BMBI report is available to download at BMBI.

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