Value sales by Britain’s Builders’ Merchants increased by a further 2.3% in February compared with February 2020, according to the latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report.
Despite the total increase, only three categories reported sales growth. The increase was largely driven by the Timber & Joinery Products category, which surged by 18.2% in February. Landscaping sales remained strong and were up 8.6% compared with February 2020, while sales of Tools (+2.0%) also increased.
Sales in the largest category, Heavy Building Materials, were down 1.8% year-on-year, and indoor trades remained affected by the latest lockdown and showroom closures. Kitchens & Bathrooms (-8.6%), Decorating (-8.4%) and Plumbing Heating & Electrical (-3.6%) all had lower sales compared to February last year.
However, there were positive signs for indoor trades, as sales of Kitchens & Bathrooms, Decorating and Tools were up significantly compared with January 2021. Compared with the previous month, total February 2021 sales were 8.6% higher, with Landscaping recording the highest monthly growth rate at 24.1%.
Commenting on the results, Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, said: “February’s BMBI index demonstrates the strength of the domestic RMI sector. The latest ONS figures also show that Private Housing RMI outperformed every other construction sector in February with 6.7% growth year-on-year, and is one of very few sectors to have recovered above its pre-pandemic level.
“Overall, builders merchants’ sales performance continues to impress and the overall picture is very positive, but the pace of recovery has varied between product sectors, leading to increasing polarisation. The Timber & Joinery category, for example, has performed particularly strongly in the first two months of 2021.
“Demand for timber and joinery products has been exceptional and there are reports of record-low stocks at some sawmills that closed down earlier in the year, which could lead to further price increases and even potential supply shortages in the sector. Sustainability is a key driver of demand too, and as householders continue to work from home and invest in garden buildings and other projects, demand will likely stay high for some time.
“On the other hand, the Kitchens & Bathrooms and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical categories were more than 20% below last year’s level on a rolling 12 month basis, as showrooms remained closed in February and householders were reluctant to undertake bigger projects such as replacing bathrooms, kitchens or boilers while being stuck at home.
“However, month-on-month growth in a number of ‘indoor’ categories was encouraging. Latent demand will have a positive impact on Plumbing, Heating & Electrical and Kitchens & Bathrooms sales as restrictions gradually ease, and differences should start to even out.”
Developed and run by MRA Research, the BMBI – a brand of the Builders Merchant 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 over 80% of total sales from builders’ merchants throughout Great Britain. An in-depth review, which includes commentary by sector experts, is provided each quarter.
February’s BMBI report is available to download at www.bmbi.co.uk.