Builders merchants sales grow in Q1 2015

The builders merchant sector recorded an increase in sales during the first quarter of 2015 and there is a “strong prospect” for further growth in the industry, according to the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF).
The latest sales figures generated by GfK’s Builders Merchants Panel, released by the BMF, reports the latest quarter, Q1 2015, shows absolute growth of 2.3% over Q4 2014, with total sales-out of £1.2bn compared to £1.18bn.

The panel, which represents 80% of the UK’s general builders merchants, has now generated nine months of data and is the first quarter where each month has shown month on month growth over the previous month (January 17.7%, February 5.2% and March 18.9%).

There were more trading days in Q1 2015 (63) compared to Q4 2014 (60). Taking this into account and comparing sales-out on a per day trading basis reveals a slight downturn (£19.6m per day in Q4 2014 vs £19.1m per day in Q1 2015). However, January was the biggest contributor to this decline with total sales-out per trading day of £17.3m, the lowest in the nine-months tracked to date.

Overall the Q1 figures provide a positive picture for the industry. March 2015 was the second most valuable month per trading day (£20.7m) since data collection began last July. Only September 2014 generated more sales per day (£20.9m) with both months having 22 trading days.

The first full-year insights, covering July 2014 to June 2015 will be available in August, with the first monthly year-on-year comparisons due a month later.

BMF’s managing director, John Newcomb said: “The Builders Merchants Panel is in its early days and we don’t yet have a full 12 months of data to provide accurate comparisons of trading activity throughout the year. But the information generated to date is extremely useful. We can already see positive signals for the market in this dataset. Builders merchants have seen three months of sales growth since the turn of the year, with March sales values (£456m) close to September (£459m) and October (£460m) last year.

“If you couple this with the 18% year on year upturn in new house registrations reported in the NHBC’s New Home Statistics Review for Q1, there is a strong prospect for further growth in the merchant industry this year.”

The data from the Builders Merchants Panel also highlights the main product category drivers within the general merchants business. In Q1 46.5% of total sales were within the Heavy Building Materials category (46.3% in Q4 2014). Timber and joinery accounted for 21.2% of sales in both Q1 and Q4, while landscaping products’ share rose slightly from 6.5% in Q4 to 6.8% in Q1.

As a proportion of total sales, plumbing, heating and electrical goods remained stable at 5.6% in both quarters, as did sales of kitchens and bathrooms (4.7%) and decorating products (4.7%).

GfK’s data sample represents 80% of the country’s Multiple Generalist Builders Merchants, defined as those selling a mix of heavy-side and light-side products through more than three branches or with an annual turnover of more than £3m. The panel includes national, multi-regional and regional merchants such as Buildbase, Jewson, Travis Perkins, EH Smith, Gibbs & Dandy, MKM, Bradfords, Covers and Ridgeons.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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