Timber drives merchants’ sales growth

6 June 2018

Timber helped drive growth in the value of builders merchants’ Q1 sales, according to the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF).

Timber sales rose 2.3%, while the value of sales overall was up 0.4% in absolute terms, and 2% per trading day on the same period last year, according to the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI).

Growth was impacted by the “beast from the east” weather snap and Good Friday removing a trading day from Q1. March, with two fewer trading days than 2017, was down 8.6% year on year, but January and February’s sales compensated, at +8.4% and +4% respectively delivering growth for the quarter.

Growth in multiple internal product categories, notably plumbing and heating (+8%), kitchens and bathrooms (+3.6%), ironmongery (+2.1%), and decorating (+1.2%), suggested that work stayed inside because of the poor weather.

BMF CEO John Newcomb said that given the harsh winter weather, “it must be seen as a positive that merchant sales growth is continuing”.

“While we may not see the market grow at the same levels as 2017, we remain confident that the trend will continue throughout 2018,” he said. The BMBI uses GfK’s point of sale tracking data drawn from over 80% of builders merchants’ sales throughout the country.

Richard Frankcom, client insight director at GfK, compared Q1’s figures to a diamond in the rough. “Merchant sales have outperformed the revised construction figures from the ONS, which fell -2.7% on the previous quarter. They also appear to be bucking the UK consumer’s negative outlook,” he said.

“However, before we polish these diamonds, we need to see the delayed external work shift into April and then continued growth year on year in May and June. Value growth is great, but price inflation is a factor we cannot ignore and only this continued growth will really give us clarity.”