All bar one category sold more than the same month in the previous year with renewables and water saving (+35.8%), timber and joinery products (+31.5%), landscaping (+28.9%) and kitchens and bathrooms (+28.8%) outperforming the merchants generally. Seven categories grew more slowly, including heavy building materials (+21.4%), plumbing, heating and electrical (+18.1%) and tools (+13.3%).

Compared to January 2019, a pre-pandemic year, total merchant value sales were 15.1% higher in January 2022, with two fewer trading days this year. Over the same period of comparison, prices increased at a faster rate (+19.8%), while volume sales were down 3.9%.

Ten of the 12 categories sold more, with landscaping (+32.5%) and timber and joinery products (+31.9%) again leading the charge. Kitchens and bathrooms (+11.4%) and heavy building materials (+9.8%) also performed well, while decorating (-1.5%) and tools (-3.2%) sold less. Total like-for-like value sales were 26.6% higher than January 2019.

Month-on-month total merchant sales were 28.7% up in January 2022 compared to December 2021, helped by three more trading days in January. In the main categories, timber and joinery products (+32.7%) did best, followed by ironmongery (+30.7%), tools (+30.6%) and heavy building materials (+30.1%). Like-for-like sales were up 9.4%.

“2022 is off to a flying start, with solid performances recorded across almost every category,” said Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces this report. “However, we are seeing more evidence to support the industry belief that the sales boom we saw in 2020 and 2021 is slowing down, as volume sales give way to price inflation.

“What impact these higher prices will have on builders’ merchant sales this year remains to be seen, but with households now facing the highest levels of inflation for 30 years, it may be the end of the repair, maintenance, and improvement (RMI) boom which gave the industry such a lift during Covid.”

“January has seen a continuation of the recent growth trend, but even in January there were already expectations that this would slow down going forward,” added Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager – trade at GfK Retail & Technology UK. “February will now be even more uncertain due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, adding further instability to pricing indicators.”