US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

Continuing Declines in Sales by Building Materials Distributors: A Time to Worry?

The recent release of the August 2021 retail sales report by the US Commerce Department showed that sales by building materials and garden equipment and suppliers posted declines yet again in August, falling more than 4.5% in that month. While still up more than 15% compared to retail sales in this market segment last year, this decline in sales has prompted concerns among some in the industry.

To be sure, many of the declines in sales have an explanation:

  • Steep drops in lumber prices – in many places in the US they are at or below their traditional price levels – meant that sales of this key building material would fall in value (if not unit) terms.
  • The end of summer means that many construction professionals – especially in the northern half of the US – will be working less due to shorter days and the heightened prospect of inclement weather.
  • Consumer spending was concentrated on back-to-school supplies, and not necessarily those related to outdoor living and leisure (an important sales channel for many retailers).
  • The end of summer also means that gardeners wrap up their activities for the year and homeowners and landscapers generally cut grass and perform other lawn maintenance activities less.

Going forward, industry professionals can expect sales in this market to continue to fall. Construction seasons will continue to shorten, and contractors will purchase less material. In the gardening and landscaping segment, many crews will curtail activities or shift to other types of work – landscapers will get trucks and equipment for winter plowing.

Sales in the segment will be supported:

  • consumers’ fondness for Halloween activities, such as decorating yards and buying pumpkins – many retailers stock product lines in this category
  • consumer interest in preparing for winter – buying snow blowers, shovels, rock salt, and other items

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Construction and Building Products. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.