Daily building materials sales plummet

The amount of construction materials being purchased each day across the UK has fallen by almost a tenth in just a year, data has revealed.

April’s Builders Merchant Building Index report showed that like-for-like sales plummeted by 9.2 per cent in the year to February 2024.

Set up and run by insight specialists MRA Research, the monthly index is based on actual point-of-sale tracking data.

While the value of purchases from merchants was down 4.7 per cent year-on-year in February, this masked the true extent of the drop, as prices had gone up and there was an extra trading day due to the leap year.

Timber and joinery product sales dipped by 6.4 per cent and heavy building materials by 7.9 per cent, while renewables and water-saving sales plummeted by more than a fifth.

However, there was some shorter-term joy for merchants as like-for-like transaction volumes rose by 9.7 per cent from the prior month.

Eight categories of products sold more month-on-month, with landscaping items leading the way at 17 per cent more popular than in January as thoughts turned to spring.

Heavy building material sales were up but plumbing, heating and electrical, and workwear and safetywear were the worst performers.

MRA Research managing director Mike Rigby said: “With housebuilding still in the doldrums, repair and maintenance is quietly holding the fort for the construction industry.”

He added that a consumer confidence barometer run by markets insight outfit GfK showed sentiment had remained stable in early 2024.

“Despite another round of rises in household bills from April, with everything from council and road tax, water bills, broadband costs and even stamps increased at the start of the month, consumers are surprisingly upbeat about their own situation,” Rigby said.

“With inflation back under 4 per cent, potential interest rate cuts coming in the summer, house prices on the rise again, and a general election and new government in prospect, there are reasons for optimism.”

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