Retail sales of construction and earthmoving equipment in the UK market grew by 5.7% in the first quarter of 2018, compared with the same period in 2017, according to the UK equipment statistics exchange. *
This is an encouraging out-turn, against the background of a weak construction market in the first quarter of the year. However, while equipment sales remain on an upward trend on a quarterly basis, the levels of growth are showing a slowing momentum, for example growth in the first quarter of last year exceeded 10%. The graph below shows quarterly sales on an index basis, using Q1 2016 as 100.
The most popular machines in the UK market are mini and midi excavators (up to 10 tonnes), and they showed 8% growth in Q1. However, the strongest growth was for telehandlers, the second most popular equipment type, where sales grew by more than 27% compared with Q1 2017. In spite of facing some difficulties from the adverse weather in the early months of the year, the housebuilding market remains strong, and continues to stimulate demand for these smaller types of equipment.
Sales of the other major types of construction equipment showed a range of growth rates. Compaction rollers continued to see the weakest sales in the first quarter, continuing the trend seen in 2017. A significant factor remains the emphasis by Highways England to spend on smart motorways, which involve less work on carriageways, in favour of safety barriers, drainage and other structures.
A factor continuing to boost demand in the early months of the year has been fleet replenishment within the rental industry. In the UK market, the rental industry is estimated to account for over 60% of equipment supply, and is more significant than in other European markets. However, the latest survey by the European Rental Association which was published in April, anticipates that growth in the UK rental market in 2018 will only be 0.5% for the full year, and will lag behind growth in other major European countries.
*In 2017, the construction equipment statistics exchange was taken over by Systematics International Ltd., a specialist data processing company. This scheme is run in partnership with the Construction Equipment Association (CEA), the UK trade association.