“I wouldn’t quite say plaster is the toilet paper for the building materials industry, but it’s probably not far away,” said John Newcomb, chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF). “I don’t know where all of this is going, but it is certainly in demand. ”
With more than 9 million Britons on leave during the three months of foreclosure, there has been much time to fill the gaps in indoor and outdoor living spaces. Indeed, the rush to DIY stores, whose sales jumped 42% in May, was the main driver of the rebound in official retail sales figures.
Last week Kingfisher, which owns B&Q and Screwfix, said it was hiring up to 2,000 temporary workers after online sales jumped more than 200% in April and May. Likewise, when Ikea reopened its doors earlier this month, buyers queued up for hours to purchase its flat furniture and storage systems.
With the fallout from the pandemic putting overseas vacations and worry-free shopping out of reach, analysts believe that money that would otherwise have been spent on summer getaways and fashion is diverted to home improvements, with small landscaping projects such as patios and raised flower beds proving popular.
ManoMano online DIY marketplace has said so in the past three months. sales of power tools were almost 250% higher than in 2019. Demand for plumbing and electrical accessories also doubled, but – probably due to the lack of ads and plans holiday – the most consulted guides on his blog show how to make a bar or deckchairs for your garden on pallets.
Homebase said its lumber sales have doubled in the last year and also reported a high demand for insulation, loft ladders and loft boards as people sought to create a home office or additional storage .
“The availability issues you face are with builders or DIY stores,” said Newcomb, who added that plaster supplies were a priority for essential projects, especially within the NHS. “There has been a shortage of plaster and there are also problems with bagged cement. But it’s not just cement – it’s the products bought by manufacturers and consumers. “
The work of home builders and major contractors has not been disrupted, said Newcomb, co-chair of the industry’s product availability group, which monitors any outages related to the coronavirus. The reason why it is difficult to get packaged cement is due to a shortage of packaging, so it is consumers and traders, who buy smaller quantities, who are the most affected.
“We are also seeing excessive demand for external materials such as posts and fence panels, exterior paint and garden ties,” said Newcomb. “There is this extreme demand from consumers and now, as traders start to return to work, they are adding to it. ”
Plaster factories have not been able to meet the additional demand, although some companies are working overtime, drawing parallels to the shortage of flour created by the pastry bonanza. Plasterers are optimistic that supply levels will normalize by the end of July, although shortages created by a 250% increase in demand for Indian sandstone – commonly used to pave walkways and patios – are expected to take more time to stabilize.