Dulux Comment: Q4 2023

At the end of 2023 the trade paint market stood at 1.5% growth year-on-year, after mostly flat Q4 volume sales. In contrast, the trade woodcare market attained growth of 9% year-on-year, with data suggesting much of this growth was driven by Builders’ Merchants. Against a gloomy economic outlook, growth of these markets provides assurance of the continued value of builders’ merchants to wider society.

The effects of a high Bank Rate muted housing market activity, resulting in fewer housing transactions, especially for newly built properties. While this has led to reports of less paint being used in the new housing sector, recovery has been good for volume used in the existing housing market. Volume growth is strongest for private dwellings, and green shoots of growth continued in Q4 within existing social housing repair and maintenance, both possibly driven by the Government’s commitment to delivering “Awaab’s Law” in an amendment to the Social Housing Regulation Bill.

Known as Awaab’s Law, it sets deadlines for social landlords in England and Wales to tackle reported hazards promptly. Two-year-old Awaab was killed by mould in a social housing flat in Rochdale in 2020. Significantly, Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer confirmed in February that Labour intends to extend Awaab’s Law into the private rental sector.

Another green shoot, according to GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index, is consumer confidence. It started 2024 with all measures up and a headline score of -19, the best since January 2022. Consumers’ view of their personal financial situation for the coming year gained two points and now stands at zero. This is a milestone as it ends 24 consecutive months of negative scores. GfK says it’s the best single indicator of how the nation’s households feel about their income and expenditure. Despite the cost-of-living crisis still hitting many households, consumers appear to be encouraged by the good news about falling inflation.

Sales to builders’ merchants finished -2.3% down year-to-date on last year, indicating that there is potential for greater growth in the channel, as it currently lags the performance of the total market.

Reports of workloads from professional decorators remain elevated for the time being, adding to our expectations that the trade paint market will be robust through 2024 in terms of volumes.

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