Lacklustre February – before COVID-19 hit
Having endured three and a half years of Brexit turmoil, the country now faces a far bigger challenge and greater uncertainty. February pre-dated social distancing (which started on 19 March) and the lockdown (which took effect on 24 March), hence merchants’ February trading will not have been much affected by the emerging Coronavirus pandemic..
Total Builders’ Merchant sales in February were down 1.3% compared with February 2019. Three categories were weaker: Timber & Joinery Products (-6.9%); Tools (-4.0%) and Heavy Building Materials (-1.9%). Among the seven categories that sold more this year, Workwear & Safetywear showed strong growth (+30.8%) driven by higher demand for protective equipment (including masks, goggles and gloves). Landscaping sold 7.4% more and Kitchens & Bathrooms grew by 3.5%.
Compared with January, sales in February were 2.2% higher despite having two less trading days. Eight categories sold more, led by Landscaping (+16.5%) – despite it being the wettest February on record. Kitchens & Bathrooms (+7.8%) and Workwear & Safetywear (+6.8%) also did well. Four categories sold less, including Timber & Joinery Products (-2.2%) and Plumbing Heating & Electrical (-1.5%). Average sales a day (which takes trading day differences into account) were 12.4% higher than in January and all categories increased.
Sales in the three months December 2019 to February 2020 were 1.2% lower than in the same period a year earlier. Nine categories did better, including Workwear & Safetywear (+14.1%) and Landscaping (+5.3%). However Timber & Joinery Products (-6.0%) and Tools (-4.8%) were weaker.
The 12 months March 2019 to February 2020 were down 0.9% on the same period a year earlier, with one less trading day. Average sales a day in the last 12 months were down 0.5%.
February’s BMBI index was 107.6. Ten of the twelve categories exceeded 100, led by Workwear & Safetywear (128.0) and seasonal category Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (126.9).
The latest Feb 2020 full report is available to download at www.bmbi.co.uk.