BuildingTalk: BMBI reveals strong builders’ merchant November sales

The latest figures from the Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI), published in January, reveal that merchants’ year-on-year value sales to builders and contractors were 17.4% higher in November 2021 compared to the same month in 2020.

Record-breaking monthly figures and year-best performances were recorded across a number of categories.

Timber & Joinery Products (+30.2%) recorded its 15th consecutive month of year-on-year growth. Renewables & Water Saving (+18.0%) and Landscaping (+17.1%) also put in a strong performance, and Services (+17.1%) had its best-ever monthly sales since the BMBI started in July 2014. Kitchens & Bathrooms (+14.5%) had its highest-ever monthly BMBI turnover. Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+13.8%) had its best month of 2021, and Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, also performed strongly (+13.5%).

Like-for-like sales, which take trading day differences into account, were up 12.1% year-on-year.

Compared to November 2019, a pre-pandemic year, total merchant value sales were up 28.0% in November 2021, with one more trading day in 2021. Eleven of the 12 categories sold more with Landscaping (+51.4%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+51.3%) still leading the pack.

Heavy Building Materials (+23.4%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+12.1%) were among the eight categories also growing strongly. Only Workwear & Safetywear (-2.9%) sold less. Total like-for-like value sales were 22.2% higher.

Last three months

Total sales in the three months September to November 2021 were up 14.5% on the same period in 2020. Eleven of the twelve categories sold more, with Timber & Joinery Products (+32.4%) continuing to strongly out-perform the total market.

Growth in other categories varied from Landscaping (+10.7%), Kitchens & Bathrooms (+10.4%) and Heavy Building Materials (+9.5%), to Ironmongery (+2.4%). Workwear & Safetywear (-2.8%) was the only category that sold less.

Compared to the same three months in 2019, sales were 20.9% higher. Ten of the 12 categories sold more but Timber & Joinery Products (+46.4%) and Landscaping (+39.0%) were outstanding in comparison with 2019, as has been the case throughout 2021.


Month-on-month total merchant sales were 3.2% up on October 2021, helped by one more trading day in November. Renewables & Water Saving (+15.9%) performed best, followed by Workwear & Safetywear (+13.4%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (+12.5%).


Total value sales January to November 2021 were up 31.5% compared with the same 11 months in Covid-affected 2020, with two less trading days this year. All categories sold more. Year-to-date sales were also up 15.9% on January to November 2019, again with two less trading days this year.

Andy Scothern, Managing Director for eCommonSense and BMBI’s Expert for Website & Product Data Management Solutions, comments:

“As 2021 draws to a close and we look ahead to the challenges of 2022, solving inefficiencies in the supply chain should be a significant focus for merchants, with the rise of eCommerce presenting new opportunities in efficiency.

“The entire industry needs to go through a digital transformation, part of which will involve connecting the websites, product databases and back-office systems of merchants, suppliers and, further downstream, construction companies.

“This will enable rapid and accurate data exchange to allow customers to make informed buying decisions, and help improve inventory and delivery management, but it will also reduce waste from the number of part-full delivery trucks on the road.

“Many merchants have invested limited amounts of money in digital transformation, as they are unsure if customers would favour online systems and they are sceptical of the benefits.

“However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital revolution has gathered pace. Research shows that almost 50% of people now prefer to transact online with customers, suppliers and merchants, often preferring the more efficient and sustainable option.

“Those that fail to invest and realise the potential of these digital solutions risk losing out to more agile competitors. They may also fall foul of future legislation as sustainability becomes an increasingly influential factor driving buying decisions.”

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit

This column was published on on 27th January 2022.

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