Builders’ merchant volumes drop 12% in November

The latest Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report shows builders’ merchant takings were down by 5.7% in November 2023 compared to the same month in 2022, with volume sales falling 12.1%.

Sales revenue did not fall as much as sales volumes because prices were, on average, 7.2% higher in November 2023 than they had been 12 months before.

Six of the 12 product categories sold more in November 2023 compared to the previous year. But falling sales in the three largest categories contributed to an overall decline in volumes, with heavy building materials (-7.0%), landscaping (-7.4%) and timber & joinery products (-10.9%) all selling less.

Month-on-month, comparing November to October, takings were down 4.4% and volumes by 7.5%. Prices went up by 3.4% in just the one month. Workwear & safetywear was the only product category to see any rise in sales, with revenue here up by 10.9%. Landscaping – a seasonal category – was down 14.2%, more than any other category.

Total merchant sales revenues in the period January to November 2023 were down 4.9% on the same period in 2022 and sales volumes were down 13.8%. Prices rose by 10.3%.

Mike Rigby, managing director of MRA Research which produces the BMBI report says: “November was another difficult month for the UK’s builders’ merchants. Following major storms in September and October, November delivered yet more wet and windy weather and widespread flooding which delayed planned construction work. The housing market is still in the doldrums with high mortgage rates, sizeable deposits and affordability affecting new house sales and the new build market. Rising rentals are also putting the squeeze on future house buyers.”

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