Positive growth for merchants in Q1 2019

Merchants reported a strong start to the year with Total Builders’ Merchants value sales to builders and contractors up 5.9% in the first quarter compared with Q1 2018, according to the recently published Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) covering Q1 2019. Product categories that grew strongly included Timber & Joinery, up 6.6%, Heavy Building Materials, up 6.8%, and strongly seasonal Landscaping, which saw value growth of 15.6% as the year got off to a better start than 2018 with the milder weather.

Compared with Q4 2018, sales in Q1 2019 increased by 1.9%, but average sales a day (which takes into account the difference in trading days) were 3.0% lower over the same period.

Total sales in March 2019 were up 8.3%, with the milder weather impacting positively compared to the same period last year. Product categories that displayed the highest growth year-on-year were those related to external work. Timber & Joinery was up by 9.2% and Heavy Building Materials by 9.4%, while landscaping increased by 25.6% over March 2018.

Month-on-month, sales in March were 11.8% higher than in February on one more trading day, and average sales a day were up 6.5%.

March’s BMBI index was 121.6, with Landscaping (131.6) the top performing category.

John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchant Federation said: “Overall there are more positives than negatives within the BMBI Q1 2019 results. At the moment consumer confidence is holding and homeowners continue to invest in RMI projects, but we are still living in uncertain times. No one can say for sure what impact the prolonged uncertainty over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have over the course of the next 12 months.”

Richard Frankcom, Key Account Director at GfK added: “This time last year we were waiting to see if we’d see merchant sales recover from a weather damaged start to the year, which they did.  This year it’s more about how the political situation will affect consumer and business confidence.  With value growth still outstripping volume, inflation will be putting the squeeze on already cautious consumers who are a substantial proportion of the RMI market for merchants SME trade customers.  Furthermore, any slowdown in house prices may slow the larger house builders land turn, which will further hit trade.  Time will tell, but some political clarity would really help.”

Produced by MRA Marketing, the Builders Merchant Building Index report contains data from GfK’s Builders Merchants Panel, which analyses data from over 80 of generalist builders’ merchants’ sales throughout Great Britain. The full report with index tables and charts is available to download at

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