Bumper Q1 value sales but increase driven more by price inflation than volume

Total value sales data from Britain’s Builders’ Merchants shows Q1 2022 was a bumper quarter thanks in part to a record-breaking March, which clocked up the highest ever total sales in the history of the BMBI. However this was driven once again more by price inflation (+16.0%) than volume growth (+1.5%).

Quarter 1 2022 total value sales were 17.7% higher than Q1 2021, with no difference in trading days. All bar one categories sold more. Renewables & Water Saving (+29.3%) did best, followed by Kitchens & Bathrooms (+26.3%) which also recorded its best-ever quarterly sales. Timber & Joinery Products (+21.4%) and Heavy Building Materials (+17.4% in value) grew more slowly while its volume is up by 5.0%. Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+16.4%) and Miscellaneous (+12.8%) both had their best-ever quarterly sales. Workwear & Safetywear (-0.1%) was flat.

Comparing Q1 2022 with Q1 2019, a pre-pandemic year, total value sales were 24.7% higher, with no difference in trading days. All categories sold more including Landscaping (+51.4%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+40.6%), which did particularly well. Heavy Building Materials (+18.9%), Kitchens & Bathrooms (+17.8%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+11.2%) all grew more slowly.

Quarter-on-quarter, sales were up 11.4% in Q1 2022 compared to Q4 2021, helped by three more trading days in the most recent period. All categories sold more including Renewables & Water Saving (+28.1%) and Landscaping (+26.2%). Tools (+13.3%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+12.5%) and Heavy Building Materials (+11.9%) all grew faster than Merchants overall.
Like-for-like sales were 6.1% higher than in Q4 2021.

March was a bumper month, with total value sales 24.1% higher than February, boosted by three extra trading days in the most recent month. Seasonal category Landscaping (+47.2%) outperformed the other categories, while Heavy Building Materials grew by (+24.5%). Workwear & Safetywear (+9.7%) had the slowest growth. Like-for-like sales were 7.9% higher.

Compared to March 2021, when large parts of the country were again under Covid restrictions, total sales were 9.8% higher in March 2022 with no difference in trading days. This was driven entirely by price inflation (+18.5%) rather than volume (-7.3%). Eleven of the twelve categories sold more with Kitchens & Bathrooms (+25.2%), Plumbing, Heating and Electrical (+16.3%), Heavy Building Materials (+10.5%), Decorating (+7.8%), Ironmongery (+5.9%) and Tools (+2.8%) all having their best-ever month since the BMBI started in July 2014. Only Landscaping (-1.1%) sold less.

Total value sales in March 2022 were 35.0% higher than the same month three years ago, helped by two more trading days this year. All categories sold more, with Landscaping (+64.1%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+50.7%) performing the best. Like-for-like sales were 23.3% up.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research who produce this report, said: “It’s been an uncertain start to 2022 with the outbreak of war in Ukraine further impacting energy costs and inflation. But the quarterly figures suggest that – for now at least – the building sector is holding its resolve. With rising costs and another round of energy price increases looming, there may be clouds on the horizon but with geopolitical circumstances changeable, there is little way of knowing exactly what Q2 will bring.”

Developed and run by MRA Research, the BMBI – a brand of the Builders Merchant Federation – is a monthly index of builders’ merchant sales, and the most reliable, up-to-date measure of Repair, Maintenance, and Improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. The index is based on actual sales from GfK’s Builders’ Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data, which captures value sales out to builders from generalist builders’ merchants, accounting for over 80% of total sales from builders’ merchants throughout Great Britain. An in-depth review, which includes commentary by sector experts, is provided each quarter.

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