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Subdued start to 2020 for merchants, says BMBI

By March 30, 2020 No Comments

Total builders’ merchant sales in January 2020 were down 2.6% compared with January 2019, according to the latest monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report, which shows a subdued start to the year for the industry.

Seven product categories sold less, with Timber & Joinery Products (-7.0%) showing as the weakest sector, followed by Tools (-6.1%), which had its lowest average sales a day since BMBI data was first recorded in July 2014. Heavy Building Materials (the largest category) was down 2.7%. In contrast, five categories reported more sales in January this year, including Workwear & Safetywear (+7.3%) and Landscaping (+3.9%).

Comparing sales between January and December is always affected by a significant difference in the number of trading days because of the holiday period (22 days in January 2020 and only 15 in December 2019). As a result, total January sales were 34.4% higher.

However, average sales per day provides a more meaningful comparison, with January 8.4% weaker than December. Kitchens & Bathrooms (-14.0%) and Decorating (-12.4%) were particularly low. Although still selling less each day, six categories did better than the overall builders’ merchant sales figures, including Timber & Joinery Products (-5.5%) and Workwear & Safetywear (-1.8%).

Sales in the 12 months from February 2019 to January 2020 were down 0.5% on the same period a year earlier, with one less trading day. Four categories sold less: Tools (-6.7%); Timber & Joinery Products (-2.0%); Plumbing Heating & Electrical (-0.8%) and Heavy Building Materials (-0.7%). The eight categories selling more included Landscaping (+2.9%), Workwear & Safetywear (+2.5%), and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+1.8%). Average sales a day in the last 12 months were down 0.1% overall.

January’s BMBI index was 105.3, with one additional trading day. Nine categories exceeded 100, with seasonal category Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (128.9) doing best. Workwear & Safetywear (119.9) and Ironmongery (118.4) also performed well, although Landscaping (90.5) was one of only three categories below 100. The average sales per day index for January was 99.3.

The full monthly report can be viewed online at

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