Market Monitor: Learning curve

Market Monitor: Learning curve

The latest BMBI report confirms a strong V-shaped recovery for the sector so far and affords all businesses in the sector a useful category by category benchmark for their own performance.

Builders’ merchant sales bounced back strongly in the three months May to July, with sales values “surging” 38.9% ahead compared with February to April, as reported in July’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report.

Compared with the same three months of 2019, sales were down 13.4% overall. However, July sales were only 1.3% below July 2019 and some categories were ahead. Landscaping (+25.4%), Workwear & Safetywear (+21.3%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+1.5%) were all up on the same month last year.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research which produces the BMBI reports, said: “These sales figures demonstrate the resilience and strength of a V-shaped recovery in the sector. Builders’ merchants sell to a variety of markets, including new build, but their customers — general builders, developers, and other trades — are the backbone of the housing RMI market.

“The ONS provisional estimates for the same three months, May to July, are seemingly at odds with these figures, putting overall construction down 10.6%, with RMI falling 12.4% and private housing RMI dropping by 17.9%.

“But a note of caution: we’re not comparing apples with apples,” added Mike. “ONS numbers are provisional estimates based on a sample survey, and as more information comes in the estimates are revised. However, GfK’s Builders’ Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data, on which the Builders Merchant Building Index is based, is different. It’s not a sample survey and it’s much more focused.

“It doesn’t include every element of housing RMI, but it includes the bulk of it and it’s a very good proxy for repair, maintenance, and improvement. The data is actual value sales out to builders from generalist builders’ merchants, accounting for over 80% of total sales from builders merchants throughout Great Britain. It’s also validated before publishing, so it doesn’t get revised.”

Developed and run by MRA Research, the BMBI — a brand of the Builders Merchant Federation — is a monthly index of builders’ merchant sales, and is described as being the most reliable, up-to-date measure of Repair, Maintenance, and Improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. BMBI monthly reports track what is actually happening in the market whilst an in-depth review — including Expert comments — appears every quarter.

BMBI has become an effective platform for building recognition of the builders’ merchant sector supply chain, explaining markets and building brands. For example, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) includes a summary and link to BMBI monthly reports in its authoritative Monthly Construction Update alongside the ONS, Bank of England and other key resources.

Go to to download July’s BMBI report.

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