Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

And I still find it so hard,
To say what I need to say
But I’m quite sure that you’ll tell me
Just how I should feel today

It’s one of those facts beloved of newspaper journalists, desperate for something to write about post-Christmas and New Year, that January is the worst month. The tabloids talk of Blue Monday – the first Monday that everyone has to go back to work (apart from those who’ve worked all the time to ensure the rest of us can have tome off that is) – of Divorce Day, when couples who have just about held it together over Christmas and Boxing Day, realise that the strain is too much and they actually can’t stand each other and Black Monday, the third in the month when January’s ay-day seems as far away as December’s.

So we’ve got all of this, plus the awful weather – drizzly and grey – “dreich” as my Scottish mother-in-law would say – and not even cold enough to kill off that pre-Christmas lurgy that won’t seem to go away.

So, is there anything to look forward to? Depends who you listen to. For starters, our flaxen-haired Prime Minister – the Chosen One – would have it that, when the 31st day of January has passed, we will emerge into the light, bright, airy future that no longer being part of the EU will bring us to.

Um, we’ll see how that pans out, but there does seem to be a little bit more hope and enthusiasm around, even if it’s just anecdotally. Maybe that’s just the Brexit-stockpiles that have run out so companies are rebuilding their stocks, maybe it’s just that we’ve all had enough of the doom and gloom, but there are people saying to me, ‘you know what, we’re not doing too badly. We’ve got plans for growth and our customers are busy’.

Then again, there’s fact that the consolidation in the industry continues apace. Grant & Stone became part of the Cairngorm Capital pack in November, the same group as Parker Building Supplies, Fairalls, Chandlers, Stamco, the businesses making up the National Timber Group and the Construction Materials Online bunch. From a supplier’s point of view, that’s a lot of customers falling into the same basket, no matter how strong those Chinese walls may be.

Neither are suppliers immune as this morning’s announcement that Breedon have hoovered up some of the Cemex UK heavyside operations shows.

We’ve seen all this before of course over the years, so it’s clear that the only thing that is constant in this industry is change and the sector’s ability to keep calm and carry on. Cliché maybe, but there’s a reason that clichés develop – because they are true.

Happy New Year!

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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