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Q3 merchant sales buck ONS trend

Sales of building materials through UK builders merchants remained strong for the first three months following the Brexit vote. 

That’s according to the latest figures from the Builders Merchants Building Index, published by the Builders Merhants Federation, which appear to buck the downward construction trend reported by the ONS earlier this month. 

Total merchant sales in Q3 2016 were up by 3.8% on the same period last year with total ex-VAT sales of £1.43bn compared to £1.39bn in 2015.

 Total sales for the first 9 months of the year also increased, rising by 5.1% year on year.

Year on year sales growth in Q3 was particularly strong in Landscaping (+9.6%), helped by good weather throughout the period.  Ironmongery riose 5.9% and Heavy Building Materials, the sector’s largest product category, +4.4%.

Categories recording a quarter on quarter increase included Ironmongery (+3%), Decorating (+2.8%), Kitchens & Bathrooms and Timber & Joinery Products (both +1.9%). 

However, total merchant sales in Q3 were 0.6% lower than Q2 2016 – and 3.7% less when adjusted for two fewer trading days.  This is a turnaround from last year.  In 2015, Q3 sales were 1.7% higher than Q2. It remains to be seen if this is an early warning sign that the market may be slowing.

John Newcomb, managing director of the BMF said: “Positive trading results in first three months following Brexit are an important indicator of the industry’s health. Year on year sales have continued to grow throughout 2016, bucking the construction trends identified by the ONS.

 “We are not overly concerned about the slight drop in sales from Q2 as annual sales can peak in either quarter, but we will be monitoring this going forward.”

GfK’s Builders’ Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data represents over 80% of the value of the builders’ merchant market and is used to create the BMBI, the Builders Merchant Building Index of actual sales to builders. 

The ONS figures are estimates based on around 40% of the data and subject to regular revision as the data comes in. Revised ONS figures for July and August showed construction down by -0.8% and +0.8% respectively on the previous year, with a provisional September figure of +0.2%.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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