Merchant sales stay strong through third lockdown

Builders merchants’ sales remained strong as the country went through the third lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest Builders Merchants Building Index report.

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Merchants’ sales to the interior trades have not fared well during the third lockdown, according to the BMBI.

Year-on-year growth was driven primarily by three product categories: Timber & Joinery sales were up 7.7% on January 2020, while Landscaping rose 3.7% and Workwear & Safetywear  sales were up 2.4% on the same time a year ago.

In contrast, indoor trades appear to have been negatively affected by the return to lockdown. Both the Plumbing Heating & Electrical and Kitchens & Bathrooms categories saw double-digit falls, with Decorating the weakest category at 17.2% below last years’ level.

Compared with the previous month, total January 2021 sales were 20.6% higher, helped by three more trading days. Workwear & Safetywear (+39.1%) did best, with Timber & Joinery Products and Heavy Building Materials also performing well.

Sales in the three months to January 2021, for which there was no difference in trading days, were 4.4% higher than in the three-month period to January 2020. Once again, Timber & Joinery Products and Landscaping were the top performing categories.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces the BMBI reports says: “Given the post-Brexit shipping delays, various supply problems related to the pandemic and a third lockdown being imposed in January, these figures actually paint a positive picture and show it’s been pretty much business as usual for merchants, despite the many challenges they have faced.

“As we approach the first anniversary of the initial lockdown, it is interesting to look at merchants’ sales over the 12 months to January 2021, which bear the full impact of Covid-19 closures in the Spring. While total sales are only 10.8% lower than in the previous 12 months, it is concerning that indoor trades have seen a much slower pace of recovery than other sectors.

“The Kitchens & Bathrooms and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical categories are almost 20% below last year’s level, as showrooms have been closed and householders have been reluctant to undertake bigger projects such as replacing bathrooms, kitchens or boilers while being stuck at home.”

“In the Landscaping category, on the other hand, sales have already recovered and are 5.7% higher over the 12 months. And with travel expected to be limited until the summer at least, the sector could be set for another record Spring.”

January’s BMBI report is available to download at

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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