Building materials sales are disappointing

Published:  18 April, 2012

UK: The latest indicators from the Builders' Merchants Federation show that sales of building materials nationally rose by just 0.6% for the three months December 2011 to February 2012 compared with the same period in 2010-11. 

Sales were down by 3.7% when compared with the preceding three-month period, September to November 2011.

The BMF figures reflect the disappointing growth in construction output in February reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last week, which found construction growth of 6.1% in February after two successive months of falling output (-10.3% December and -12.9% January).

The BMF's 12-month comparator again shows a fall, with builders' merchants sales between February 2011 and February 2012 down 3.6% on the previous 12-month period.

However, the BMF's national figures mask differing regional trends. Several regions reported significant growth during December to February over the previous three months.

Builders' merchants in Yorkshire saw sales rise by 12.1%, in Greater London by 11%, in East Anglia by 8.8%, in the South West and Wales by 6.1% and by 1.9% in the Northern region. 

Conversely, Scotland saw the greatest fall in sales, down by 13.5%, followed by East Midlands (-9.1%), the South East (-5.5%), the West Midlands (-4.2%) and the North West (-0.6%).

In the year-on-year three-month comparisons, there was a downturn in the sales of lightside products (plumbing, heating and ironmongery) but a rise in sales of heavyside products (bricks, blocks, aggregates and cement). Lightside sales were down by 8.2%, with heavyside up by 5.2%.

Commenting on the figures, BMF secretary, Peter Matthews, said: "It is clear that construction output remains fragile, which leads to pretty volatile trading conditions around the country. 

"It remains to be seen if the recent changes in planning law will open up more housing development, and whether government initiatives such as the Green Deal will bring about an increase in energy-efficient RMI work to give a much needed boost to our sector over the coming year," said Mr Matthews.

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