The building blocks to success: How to put a brake on brick price rises

The last decade has had more than its fair share of up and downs for house builders, not least the lack of funds, followed by demand and financial support, but then difficulty getting the required materials supplied without long wait times.

Even though there’s an emerging trend of offsite construction of modular houses, the bricks-and-mortar model still dominates. But what if you can’t get your hands on bricks in a timely manner?

Let’s go back a few years to 2014. Yes, there was a shortage of bricks then. Much of the domestic supply was mothballed towards the end of the last decade, and could not restart quickly enough to meet burgeoning demand. Imports increased in the short term, and although prices were high, the market absorbed them. In the meantime, domestic supply has ramped back up, and although there are doubtless enough bricks on the market, there is – either perceived or valid – difficulty for smaller builders to get their hands on them. Maybe the larger house builders get priority due to volume purchases, perhaps they just have the clout to get to the top of the queue, or – here’s the cynic speaking – possibly the perception of a shortage remains, and this is used as a means of exploiting smaller customers. Think: “There’s a 26-week wait, but if you pay 10% more now, we can get the order sorted in 10 days.”

So, what is a house builder or construction materials supplier to do? Either there’s a shortage, or there’s a market force acting as if there’s a shortage, but you want your supply chain to run smoothly and avoid lengthy delays that could severely impact project timelines. How about importing from somewhere where brick shortages were never a problem, and storing at the point of arrival, i.e. the port? That way, the bricks are as-good-as in your possession, awaiting collection, but they don’t need to take an ‘extra leg’ to inland distribution between arrival and when you need them. You’re not reliant on a domestic supplier than may prioritise other customers over you. As well as all of this, you might even see some logistics efficiencies too, for example ensuring full truck loads by picking up additional materials (e.g. timber) from another on-port warehouse while you’re on a bricks run.

While we can’t categorically state that this is the recent strategy of some players, there has been a marked increase in bricks imports – up almost 30% in 2018, compared with 2017, according to HMRC records – and approaching volumes seen during the 2014 spike. Whatever the reason, bricks imports have increased from ~700k tonnes in 2016 to 1.2 million tonnes in 2018. Why not store yours where you import them?

Located in close proximity to London, the Port of Sheerness has links to the M2, M20 and M25 motorways. We can help you to import your goods through our 24-hour port-centric operation with unrestricted lock-free access at all states of tide.

Set across 650 acres of land including development and storage space, of which over 1,350,000 sq ft is available as mixed-use warehousing, we have the space, the infrastructure and the supply-chain solutions that enable your business to meet its growth opportunities.

Andrew Hunter

Andrew is the Sales Manager for Peel Ports London Medway.

Get in touch with Andrew

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