Total Builders Merchants value sales in Q4 2020 were up 5.4% compared to Q4 2019. Growth was mainly driven by Landscaping (+22.9%) and Timber & Joinery Products (12.7%), with Heavy Building Materials (+4.3%) the only other category to see an increase.
Year-on-year, merchants’ value sales in December 2020 remained strong, up 8.8% on December 2019. Landscaping (+25.1%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+20.3%) continued to perform particularly well into December, but all main categories except decorating saw an increase compared to 2019.
Over the full year (January-December 2020) total sales were down 10.7%, but on the whole, sales have recovered remarkably well from their lowest point last April.
The latest BMBI report also includes information from the first edition of a new report – the Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index (PHMI), which uses data from GfK’s Plumbing & Heating Merchants Panel. There is no overlap or double counting between PHMI and BMBI sales data.
Emile van der Ryst, Senior Client Insight Manager – Trade, GfK, said, “Everything noteworthy about the year 2020, the pandemic, and the lockdown has already been said. However, a final review of this year highlights just how well the sector has bounced back from the April lockdown.
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“During Q2 the economic outlook for the remainder of 2020 seemed perilous, but a combination of RMI activity plus relaxed restrictions in Q3, followed by Brexit uncertainty combined with anticipated stock shortages in Q4 turned the ship. The final annual result of a -10.7% value decline seems a lot more palatable taking all of the above into consideration.
“After Q2 2020 saw a decrease of -38.6% in value against Q2 2019, Q3 bounced back to see an increase of 1.0%. This positive trend continued into Q4, where growth of 5.4% was seen against Q4 2019. These results therefore paint a tale of two halves in 2020. The first half of the year was down by -23.9% against 2019, with the second half up by 3.0%. Landscaping was the only category to see annual growth against 2019, increasing by 5.4%.
“Q4’s positive activity was driven by a combination of Timber & Joinery and Landscaping, with these respectively increasing by 12.7% and 22.9% in value against Q4 2019. The Timber & Joinery growth in Q4 was predominantly driven by Timber, with the well documented stock shortages a key driver. Heavy Building Materials also saw a positive trend, increasing by 4.3%.
“Interestingly, all other categories saw a decline which could be reflective of the emphasis on essential services and by extension core building materials. These more lightside orientated categories continuously decreased each quarter with Tools and Kitchens & Bathrooms the most affected, seeing annual decreases of -20.2% and -18.1% respectively.
“2021 provides realistic hope of a return to normality and an expected economic upswing. Brexit is done and dusted and enables more long-term planning, while the previously mentioned digital transformation of the trade sector should continue at a strong pace.”
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