The latest Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report shows builders’ merchants’ value sales were down -2.1% in January compared to the same month in 2023, with volume sales falling -3.2% and prices creeping up +1.1%. With one more trading day this year, like-for-like sales were down -6.5%.

BMBI January 2024 graphic

Year-on-year, nine of the twelve categories sold more than January 2023 with Workwear & Safetywear (+18.3%), Landscaping (+6.2%) and Decorating (+6.1%) the better performers. However, falling sales in two of the largest categories impacted overall sales: Heavy Building Materials (-3.8%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-6.3%).

Compared to a poor December 2023, total merchant sales in January were +41.2% higher month-on-month. Volume sales were up +44.2% while prices were down -2.1%. With six additional trading days in January, like-for-like sales increased +2.7%. All categories sold more including the largest three categories: Landscaping (+52.2%), Timber & Joinery Products (+43.8%), and Heavy Building Materials (+42.5%). Renewables & Water Saving (+19.4%) grew the least.

Total merchant sales in the 12 months from February 2023 to January 2024 were -5.2% down on the same period the year before (February 2022 to January 2023). Volume sales were -12.9% lower and prices were up +8.8%. With two more trading days in the most recent 12-month period, like-for-like sales were -6.0% lower.

Eight of the twelve categories sold more, with Renewables & Water Saving (+20.6%) and Decorating (+8.1%) the standout categories. Again, the three largest categories – Heavy Building Materials (-3.7%), Landscaping (-11.0%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-13.9%) – sold less.

Mike Rigby, Managing Director of MRA Research which produces the BMBI report says: “After a downbeat end to 2023, 2024 is showing tentative signs of recovery. While construction output is estimated to have decreased -0.9% overall in the three months to January according to the latest ONS figures, on a sector level, private housing repair and maintenance (+3.2%) improved over that period, and in the month of January private new housing volumes were up +2.6%.

“GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index reports that the dramatic improvements in overall confidence stalled in February – dropping two points to -21 – but people’s view of their own improving financial situation over the coming 12 months was unaffected. Property prices are creeping up again, interest rates are holding, and the Chancellor recently announced measures to encourage landlords and second homeowners to sell up. If that doesn’t kickstart the market and create more demand for new homes and home improvements it’s likely the prospect of a new government and homeowner-friendly policies will.”

Set up and run by MRA Research, the BMBI – a brand of the Builders Merchants Federation – is a monthly index of builders’ merchant sales, and the most reliable, up-to-date measure of Repair, Maintenance, and Improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. The index is based on actual sales from GfK’s Builders’ Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data, which captures value sales out to builders from generalist builders’ merchants, accounting for 92% of total sales from builders’ merchants throughout Great Britain. An in-depth review, which includes commentary by sector experts, is provided each quarter.

January’s BMBI report is available to download at

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