UK builders’ merchant sales experienced a slow start in Q1 2023, according to the latest figures from the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI).
Q1 2023 v Q1 2022
Total sales value was down by -2.3% this year’s quarter compared to Q1 2022, with prices up by +16.9% and volume sales down by -16.4.%.
Adjusting the figures for the extra trading day in Q1 2023 reveals that like-for-like sales values were -3.8% lower than in Q1 2022.
Nine of the twelve categories saw sales values increase year on year, mostly due to price inflation.
The largest category, Heavy Building Materials was up +3.3%, and all Lightside categories had their best performing quarter on record.
Renewables & Water Saving was up by +42.3%, Plumbing, Heating & Electrical increased by +12.8%, while Decorating (+13.9%), and Workwear & Safetywear (+14.9%) both saw double digit growth.
Price growth was the key driver for most increases, with only Kitchens & Bathrooms (+8.6%) seeing the largest volume turnover on record.
Conversely, Landscaping (-18.3%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-15.3%) were the major contributors to the overall sales decline.
Landscaping suffered from the wettest March in England since 1981, while the Timber & Joinery result was influenced by continuing price declines for Timber and Sheet Materials.
Q1 2023 v Q4 2022
Total sales in Q1 2023 were +5.8% higher that Q4 2022, with volume sales increasing by +0.6% and price up by +5.2%.
However, the overall sales increase was largely due to the most recent period having five additional trading days.
Taking the trading day difference into account, like-for-like sales in Q1 2023 were -2.5% lower than the final quarter of 2022.
Activity pipeline starting to ‘dry up’
Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager at Trade at GfK, said: “There have been numerous indicators that the activity pipeline in some construction sectors is starting to dry up, and the BMBI’s Q1 data seems to back this up.
“For Q2, the outlook will likely remain negative. How long this difficult season will continue is anyone’s guess, with the drop in inflation and the return to reasonable growth across the overall UK economy as the first checkpoint ahead.”