NuGen Properties

Builders’ merchants’ third-quarter volumes down 10%


The amount of money taken through the tills – the value of sales – was 3.3% lower in the July-September period this year compared to in 2022, despite prices having gone up by 8%.

But while prices continued to rise over the quarter, they may have turned a corner. In September builders’ merchant prices were down by 0.7% compared to August.

Comparing Q3 2023 to Q3 2022, there was a 1.5% decline in sales of heavy building materials, a 7.0% drop in landscaping products and materials, and a 13.1% fall in timber & joinery products (-13.1%).

Comparing the third quarter of 2023 with the second quarter – summer to spring – takings were down 1.4%, volumes down 2.1% and prices up by just 0.8%. But with four more trading days in Q3 than Q2, like-for-like sales were down 7.5%.

Data from the Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) show that the value of September’s sales was down 6.1% compared to September 2022, with the same number of trading days, while volume were down 13.0%. Prices were up 7.8%.

Compared to August, September takings were down by 3.4%, volume by 2.7% and prices by 0.7%. With one less trading day in September, like-for-like sales were +1.2% higher.

Sales of heavy building materials were down 5.8% in September, year-on-year, landscaping down 6.7%, and timber & joinery products down 13.9%.

Builders Merchants Federation chief executive John Newcomb said: “It has been another challenging quarter for the construction industry, particularly for the housebuilding sector and we can see this reflected in the Q3 BMBI results.  Domestic RMI work has held up over the year providing some good news, but with higher interest rates set to remain the norm, it may be some time before the market returns to volume growth.”

MRA Research principal Mike Rigby, who produces the BMBI report, said: “Quarter 3 was a wash out for the building industry. From the unrelenting rain which put a halt to outdoor work in August and September, sending homeowners abroad in search of the sun, to the drop in housebuilding output which fell to its lowest levels since covid, not much was happening.”

However, he added: “There’s a lot of resilience in the private housing repair, maintain and improve sector. If you doubt it, try finding quality trades who are not busy and booked into 2024, for your home improvement project.”

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