January Merchant Sales Slip -2.1% On Year

BUILDERS’ MERCHANTS’ value sales were down -2.1% in January compared to the same month in 2023, the latest Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report shows.

Volume sales also fell -3.2% and prices crept up +1.1% in January 2024. With one more trading day this year, like-for-like sales were down -6.5%.

Year-on-year, 9 of the 12 categories sold more than January 2023 with Workwear & Safetywear (+18.3%), Landscaping (+6.2%) and Decorating (+6.1%) the better performers. However, falling sales in two of the largest categories impacted overall sales: Heavy Building Materials (-3.8%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-6.3%).

Compared to a poor December 2023, total merchant sales in January were +41.2% higher month-on-month. Volume sales were up +44.2% while prices were down -2.1%. With 6 additional trading days in January, like-for-like sales increased +2.7%. All categories sold more including the largest three categories: Landscaping (+52.2%), Timber & Joinery Products (+43.8%), and Heavy Building Materials (+42.5%). Renewables & Water Saving (+19.4%) grew the least.

Merchant Sales Slip

Total merchant sales in the 12 months from February 2023 to January 2024 were -5.2% down on the same period the year before. Volume sales were -12.9% lower and prices were up +8.8%. With two more trading days in the most recent 12-month period, like-for-like sales were -6.0% lower

Eight of the 12 categories sold more in the past 12 months, with Renewables & Water Saving (+20.6%) and Decorating (+8.1%) the standout categories. Again, the three largest categories – Heavy Building Materials (-3.7%), Landscaping (-11.0%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-13.9%) – sold less.

Mike Rigby, MRA Research MD which produces the BMBI report says: “After a downbeat end to 2023, 2024 is showing tentative signs of recovery. While construction output is estimated to have decreased -0.9% overall in the three months to January according to the latest ONS figures, on a sector level, private housing repair and maintenance (+3.2%) improved over that period, and in the month of January private new housing volumes were up +2.6%.

“GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index reports that the dramatic improvements in overall confidence stalled in February – dropping two points to -21. But people’s view of their own improving financial situation over the coming 12 months was unaffected. Property prices are creeping up again, interest rates are holding. The Chancellor recently announced measures to encourage landlords and second homeowners to sell up. If that doesn’t kickstart the market and create more demand for new homes and home improvements it’s likely the prospect of a new government and homeowner-friendly policies will.”

>> Read more merchant sales data in the news

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