Simon Taylor, Ibstock Brick’s Director of Sales for Builders’ Merchants, provides an overview of the brick market.
It is fair to say that brick has been enjoying a renaissance of late, and this reinvigorated appreciation of traditional building materials has led to increased demand. As a result, one of the issues facing the industry for much of last year — and the year before — was demand for brick out-stripping supply. The Monthly Statistics of Building Materials and Components, published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, is a great bellwether for how the industry is performing as a whole — and its data paints a healthy picture for brick production and dispatch.
Statistics for the UK show that whilst brick dispatches across the year were broadly flat year-on-year, there was a significant increase in production to tackle the issue of supply. In the first nine months of 2018, brick manufacturers produced nearly 9% more bricks than in the same period of 2017 — the highest level of output since before the financial crisis a decade ago.
The most recent data from the BEIS December 2018 report shows there was a 0.4% increase in brick deliveries in November 2018 compared to November 2017 (according to the seasonally adjusted figures), following on from a similar increase in October. And the month-on-month change shows a 1.3% increase in November 2018.
Turning to our own business, in order to increase capacity and satisfy our customers demand both now, and in the long term, we continued our capital investment programme. Eclipse, our state-of-the art factory in Leicestershire, was at the heart of our drive to produce more bricks. At full capacity, it will produce up to 100 million soft mud bricks a year — a 13% increase in Ibstock’s total capacity.
Its opening also sent a powerful message to everyone in the construction sector, including builders’ merchants, that we are doing more than any other UK supplier to meet their needs in terms of availability, quality and service. It also demonstrated our commitment to support the Government’s ambition to deliver 1 million homes by 2020. Development at other factories, including Lodge Lane, has also increased brick availability to provide greater volumes for the growing market.
It’s an important time to be investing. According to the BMF’s Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI), sales through UK builders’ merchants continued to deliver value growth in the third quarter of 2018, rising by 4.2% on the same period in 2017.
With demand for brick anticipated to grow in the next 12 months it has been increasingly important to improve scheduling accuracy so we can provide a more reliable service with greater certainty of availability and supply. By working closely with our builders’ merchant customers, we’ve already seen improvements in this area, and by continuing to provide the most accurate production information customers can plan their ongoing depot stock requirements and place accurate schedules for key products.
Whilst Brexit is creating some uncertainty, we’re determined that the brick supply chain will not be impacted. With merchant customers relying on consumer confidence for work, concerns over Brexit could have an impact. Indeed, the GfK Consumer Confidence Index in the UK decreased continually from September to December. However, as a supplier, by keeping track of data, identifying customer expectations and anticipating market changes we’ll be able to continue to support our merchant customers whatever the outcome.
For more information on Ibstock Brick, visit www.ibstockbrick.co.uk.