RMI will provide a continuing boost for timber market

RMI will provide a continuing boost for timber market


The growth of the repair, maintenance, and improvement (RMI) sector is one of the key factors which has supported the sharp recovery of construction from pandemic restrictions over the past 18 months.

This has been evident in reports from across the sector, including in last months CPA State of Trade Survey (available for members to download here), and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) State of Trade Survey.

FMB found that in a rapidly recovering construction sector, RMI is at the forefront, with the majority of their respondents (59%) reporting a higher workload than Q1 2021, and 70% reporting more enquiries. This week the Travis Perkins RMI Index reinforced this finding, with 70% of of their respondents expecting RMI to continue to be the major driver of growth in the next two months. It is likely the growth of the RMI market will be a sustained trend.

With a value exceeding £29bn, the RMI market is projected to continue to rise over the next two years according to Experian forecasts. This is supported by growing demand from consumers, and market friendly policies which are likely to be added to by a Government keen to decarbonise existing housing stock. For our members, this means the merchant supply chain will likely provide a strong avenue for business growth in the medium term.

Of course there are issues to be resolved if we are to realise this potential growth in the RMI sector. We are all very conscious of the issues with Heavy Good Vehicle (HGV) drivers, where a shortage continues to act as a major constraint on our transport networks – but this is not the only part of the supply chain with labour shortages. FMB highlights that;

  • 53% of builders are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, and 47% are struggling to hire bricklayers
  • 98% of builders are facing material price rises, with the same number expecting this to continue into Q3 2021
  • 80% of respondents have been forced to raise their prices in the past quarter

As the pandemic (fingers crossed) fades into the background and the tensions between supply and demand is resolved, it is likely labour will be the most pressing issue being faced in construction. Of course this is not a new issue, and the recommendations of the Farmer Review from 2016 to combat an aging workforce – such as digitisation and greater use of Modern Methods of Construction – only become more relevant with time.

Given the ambition within the RMI sector alone, where the Construction Leadership Council is calling for an additional 500,000 workers over the next 20 years to fulfill there aims to decarbonise buildings as set out in their Retrofit Strategy, labour is an issue which will need close attention from both Government and industry. Last week the Construction Industry Training Board announced a new chief executive – lets hope he brings renewed attention to tackling this ongoing problem.

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