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Merchant sales fall sharply in April, BMBI figures show

By June 22, 2020 No Comments

Figures released by the Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) for April 2020 show the full impact of the Coronavirus and the Government lockdown on the merchant sector.

The Government enforced COVID-19 lockdown came late in March, so had a limited impact on that month’s figures, but April took the full force, with many trades not working and most merchants temporarily closing branches or providing a restricted service for essential sectors or emergencies only. As a result, the BMBI report contains unprecedented figures.

Total Builders Merchants value sales in April were down 76.3% compared with April 2019. All categories saw heavy falls, with Workwear & Safetywear least affected (-60.2%), and Tools (-90.0%) the hardest hit. Kitchens & Bathrooms (-86.8%) and Decorating (-81.6%) were also particularly weak.

Compared with March 2020, total merchant value sales in April dropped -72.1%, with two less trading days. All categories were severely hit, with Services (-59.0%) and Landscaping (-64.5%) the least affected. Tools (-87.4%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-85.3%) were weakest. Average sales a day, which removes trading day differences, were 69.3% lower overall than in March.

April’s BMBI index was 29.0 and all categories were well down.

BMF CEO John Newcomb commented: “Sadly, April’s figures come as no surprise with the majority of construction sites and builders merchants closing, or significantly reducing operations, as a first response to the Government’s lockdown measures to prevent to transmission of Covid-19.

“However, the BMF tracked the operational status of our members throughout the crisis and the majority quickly adapted their business to offer phone or online sales and, following publication of our new branch operating guidelines, many were able to open branches and trade safely. Throughout May we could see the numbers open for business increasing on a daily basis and today all are operational.

“With construction, housing and home improvement works all back on site, we expect the picture to improve as data for the rest of Q2 becomes available.

“It will be vital for the construction industry to work together to implement the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Recovery Plan in the months ahead and the BMF is involved in developing outputs to accelerate the Housing and RMI sectors, both key customer groups for builders’ merchants.”