Brett Martin Comment: Q1 2024

Quarter 1 2024 continued the trend for trading conditions challenged by a continued weakness in the UK construction market, and particularly in the new build residential sector where a double figure regression resulted in a predictable weakening in year-on-year product demand.

This was confirmed by the NHBC (National House Building Council) who cited prevailing economic conditions, skills shortages and the eighth wettest winter on record for the falls. For Q1 2024, it recorded 21,967 new home registrations, down 20% against Q1 2023.

Thankfully the whole market is made up of more than just the residential market, and at Brett Martin our Quarter 1 performance, which reflecting our customer and product mix performed better than the new build housing sector. Many independent merchants maintain a diverse portfolio of business which has enabled them to manage the current soft market conditions with the view that a return to market growth is increasingly looking unlikely in 2024.

The latest housing report does bear some glimmer of hope based around modest month-on-month gains, but still not enough to shift the overall deficits. As we all like to remind ourselves, the underlaying demand for construction hasn’t gone away, it just needs a jump start to get it going.

At this stage manufacturers are finding the financial market’s “will we, wont we, lower mortgage rates” monthly commentary unhelpful for consumer confidence, along with the start of tit for tat doomsday electioneering mudslinging. The battle against inflation appears to be gaining ground and, while that doesn’t put money in people’s pockets, it might at least provide some more confidence boosting headlines as we move through the year.

At Brett Martin we are “putting our money where our mouth is” by continuing to invest in projects which will further improve our customer service and competitiveness. Two thousand and twenty-three represented an exceptional year of customer acquisition, and through a focus on service we have continued this trend in 2024. Our market research confirms that in softer market conditions the industry values hassle-free service and support more than at any other time.

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