There has been further modest easing in inflation in the prices of building materials and products, with builders’ merchants’ prices up 8.0% in August 2023 compared to August 2022.
Last November merchant price inflation was at 17.3%; by February it was 14.9%, in May 10.8% and in July it was 8.1%.
Despite prices going up by 8.0%, builders’ merchants’ till receipts were down 3.3% in August compared to August 2022.
Some product categories increased their takings: Renewables & Water Saving (+37.6%) , Workwear & Safetywear (+11.6%), Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+10.8%) and Decorating (+10.8%) all saw sales rise. Timber & Joinery Products (-13.2%) was the weakest segment and the August rain meant Landscaping was down 7.0%.
Month-on-month, total merchant receipts were down 1.9% in August compared to July while volume sales were down 3.2%; prices increased by 1.4%. With one additional trading day in August, like-for-like takings were 6.3% lower.
Across the three-month period, June to August, sales takings were 3.3% higher than in the previous three-month period March to May 2023. As spring turned to summer volumes were up 5.3% and prices actually came down by 2.0%.
For the year to 31st August 2023, volumes were down by 12.8%; with prices up by 13.3%, takings 1.1% down.
Over the year, Renewables & Water Saving (+46.0%) saw the biggest growth in sales by a considerable margin. Landscaping (-10.9%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-14.0%) sold less.
MRA Research principal Mike Rigby, who produces the Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report for the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF), said: “August sales were a damp squib but that’s no surprise. In addition to the tail off in demand due to customer and contractor holidays, the wetter than average summer months hampered outdoor trades and project starts, and many people spent their money on last minute holidays to escape the rain, rather than on home improvements. Travel agents recorded a quadrupling of bookings in July for August travel.
“House-building has been an even damper squib. Despite a pause on interest rate rises, net mortgage approvals fell again in August. With people staying put, the repair, maintain and improve market offers the best opportunities for growth in the short to medium term. Britons have got the message: now’s the time to ‘improve not move’.”