The Pulse

Robust outlook for merchants


The third edition of The Pulse, a series of monthly tracking surveys by MRA Research into merchants’ confidence and prospects, show builders’ merchants remain buoyant despite a weaker performance. This edition looks at expectations and confidence in July 2019, and the results first appeared in the Professional Builders Merchants magazine.

Sales expectations

Asked about sales expectations for July, a net +48% of merchants expected sales to increase compared with June. Merchants’ sales expectations have weakened since May when a net +64% thought sales would increase month-on-month.

Regionally, the South (net +67%) had higher sales expectations than the Midlands (+54%) and North (+50%). Scotland expected no change over the period.

More independent merchants (net +60%) expected sales to improve in July compared to June, than regional (net +47%) or national merchants (net +44%).

Year-on-year, a net +56% expected an improvement in July compared to the same month in 2018. Independent (net +60%) and regional merchants (+62%) were more positive than national merchants (+47%).

Market confidence

Confidence in the market has fallen since May to a net +8% of merchants more confident in July. This was up compared to June (net +4%), but not as strong as May (net +17%). Merchants in the North were the most positive (net +25%), while a net -2% in the South were less confident over the same period.

Confidence in the market dipped in July compared with the same month last year, with a net -1% of merchants less confident. Confidence was significantly weaker compared to June and May when a net +15% and +12% respectively were more confident about the market.

Regionally, Scotland was the most confident year-on-year (net +27%), while a net -17% of merchants in the South were less confident compared with 12 months ago. Independent merchants (net +7%) were more confident than national or regional merchants, both below a net -2%.

Those who were more confident put this down to more favourable market conditions and a pick-up in sales and construction activity.

Among merchants who were less confident in July compared to the same period last year, most said it was due, in part, to Brexit and continued uncertainty. Other reasons included the current economic climate, a general slowdown or increasing competition.

Business confidence

Confidence in their own business or branch remained high and relatively steady since May, with a net +42% of merchants more confident in July compared to June. Confidence was particularly strong in Scotland (net +75%), with no merchants interviewed less confident.

Year-on-year, a net +41% of merchants said they were more positive than the same period last year. Confidence was highest in the Midlands with a net +70%.

The Pulse is a monthly trends survey that tracks builders’ merchants’ confidence and prospects over time and is produced by MRA Research, the market research division of MRA Marketing. Find out more here and look out for the next report in the September edition of PBM!

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