Retail sales of construction and earthmoving equipment in the UK market fell by 21.8% in the first quarter of the year compared with the same quarter in 2019. The pattern of monthly sales during Q1 shows that the impact of the Covid-19 crisis in March caused a sharp fall. Equipment sales in January and February were only down by 6% compared with the same months last year. This was in line with expectations for sales this year, with a further single-digit decline expected compared with 2019. However, in March, sales crashed by 45% compared with last year as a result of the crisis, and this took the overall reduction for the quarter to 22%.
In terms of the level of equipment sales, Q1 was just below 6,300 units, compared with over 8,000 units in the first quarter of 2019. In March, sales were just below 1,800 units this year, compared with over 3,200 in March 2019.
The first graph (attached) shows quarterly sales on an index basis from the construction equipment statistics exchange *, using Q1 2018 as 100. This illustrates how sales have been on a downward path since 2018. UK sales have a very distinct seasonal pattern, and normally, Q1 would show a swing up from Q4 the previous year. However, in 2020, Q1 sales have stayed at similar levels to Q4 2019.
The second graph (attached) shows sales for the major equipment types in the first quarter compared with Q1 last year. This shows that the most popular equipment type, mini and midi excavators (up to 10 tonnes) were the most resilient in Q1, and only showed a fall of 9%. All the other types of equipment experienced falls of 27% or more, with compaction rollers seeing the biggest decline, in excess of 60% compared with Q1 2019.
* The construction equipment statistics exchange is run by Systematics International Ltd. This scheme is run in partnership with the Construction Equipment Association (CEA), the UK trade association.