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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Construction equipment sales down 39% in first half

UK sales of construction equipment

UK sales reached coronavirus pandemic low point in April 2020 but recovery gets under way in second quarter

RETAIL sales of construction and earthmoving equipment in the UK market fell by 39% in the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2019. Sales in the second quarter fell by 54%, reflecting the worst of the COVID crisis, after showing a 22% decline in first quarter, compared with 2019.

This is illustrated in the above graph from the construction equipment statistics exchange – a scheme run by Systematics International Ltd in partnership with the Construction Equipment Association (CEA). The graph shows quarterly sales on an index basis, using the first quarter of 2018 as 100.

The monthly pattern of sales in the second quarter of the year presents a more positive story. The decline in sales in June was 36% below 2019 levels, following more significant falls of 74% in April and 54% in May.

This clearly suggests that the low point in new equipment sales due to the pandemic was reached in April, with sales just below 800 units. Recovery was under way in June, with sales reaching just over 2,000 units, as the return to work within the construction industry continued. 

In terms of sales of the major equipment types, mini- and midi-excavators (up to 10 tonnes) saw the strongest demand in the first six months of the year with sales down by 23% – less than half of the fall experienced by all of the other equipment types, which saw declines of 50% or more. Telehandlers (for construction only) and compaction rollers saw the biggest falls of more than 60% compared with 2019.

In terms of regional sales in the first six months of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, Wales and the West Midlands were the most resilient, with sales down by 19% and 26% respectively, compared with 2019 levels.

Other areas where sales were better than the average national decline were the North West, Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and London. The weakest area was the South East (excluding London), where sales were down by more than 50% compared with last year.

The construction equipment statistics exchange also covers retail sales of equipment in the Republic of Ireland. Here, there was a 30% decline in sales in the first half of 2020, compared with 2019. Sales in the first quarter were only 8% down on last year’s levels, but then fell by 51% in the second quarter.

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