Landscaping projects continue to drive merchant sales

Average sales a day, which take trading day differences into account, were 4.7% up on October 2019.

As in September, landscaping was the product category seeing the biggest year-on year growth in October 2020, up 16.5% on 2019. In September landscaping had been up 24.2%. Sales of timber & joinery products  rose 5.0% in October to their highest monthly turnover since national data was first recorded in July 2014.

The largest category, heavy building materials, was 0.6% down on 2019. Indoor categories saw larger falls: plumbing heating & electrical was down 10.5%; decorating down 8.1% and kitchens & bathrooms down 6.5%.

Compared to the previous month, total merchants sales in October 2020 were 1.8% lower than in September 2020. There were increases for workwear & safetywear (+12.7%) and plumbing heating & electrical (+9.2%). Landscaping sales were down 15.8% on the month and heavy building materials were down 2.1%.

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Over the three months of August to October 2020, sales were up 1.5% overall compared with the same three months in 2019, with one less trading day this year. Landscaping (up 21.3%) did significantly better than other categories over the period. Timber & joinery products (+4.7%) and heavy building materials (+0.3%) also sold more. However, the other nine product categories sold less. Plumbing heating & electrical sales were down 10.1% year-on-year for the three month period), tool sales were down 4.9% and kitchens & bathrooms down 4.6%.

Despite largely positive sales figures, given the parlous state of UK retail this year, the builders’ merchant sector has still not entirely bounced back from the 76.3% year-on-year fall in sales suffered in April 2020 during the first national lockdown.

In the nine months January to October 2020, year-to-date total sales were down 13.8% compared with the same months in 2019. Landscaping (+2.8%) sold more and workwear & safetywear (+0.1%) was flat. The remaining ten categories all sold less, with tools (-23.9%) plumbing heating & electrical (-22.1%) and kitchens & bathrooms (-21.3%) weakest.

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