When buying a plot of land for a new property, most prospective buyers probably wouldn’t give a second thought about whether or not there are enough bricks to construct it. Such fundamental elements are something we expect to be readily available; however buyers are facing yet a new threat when purchasing their respective new homes, as a brick shortage hits the UK.
Dwindling supplies of UK brick stocks have been reported to be at their lowest levels ever. Numbers are down to 323m, which is well below the 1bn the country had in 2009. The amounts had already seen a steady decrease over the years however, with supplies at 500m reported in 2012.
What’s to Blame for These Low Levels?
One of the biggest contributing factors to these low levels is because of the sales and mergers of some of the UK’s most prominent suppliers. Ibstock, which is one of the oldest and largest firms in the country, has been sold, along with its smaller associated companies to an overseas firm. Another business with UK connections, HeidelbergCement, has also been recently bought out by an American firm.
Naturally, this has led to a decline in production and has meant that existing suppliers are becoming more stretched as they struggle to meet the country’s increasing demand. The chief executive of Michelmersh Brick, Martin Warner, confirmed this when he revealed the situation for his UK firm:
‘Every brick we make has already been sold up to three months in advance – the UK brick makers can’t supply demand at the moment.’
Another contributing factor to the lack of supply is the price, which has increased annually by around 8.8%, compared to 2009 where plentiful numbers were matched by lower price increases of only 2% per year.
What are the UK’s Options?
A simple solution is for building firms to import their bricks rather than manufacture them in the UK. However, this isn’t always viable as the costs and processes of transporting bricks can be quite substantial and difficult because of their weight and size.
More positively however, some successful foreign firms are recognising this gap in the markets and are buying old factories in the UK to begin production. One such example being one of Europe’s largest firms, Wienerberger, who have already capitalised on this and have a number of facilities currently in operation and plan to open two new sites.
It is hoped that other investors will begin to follow suit, otherwise the situation for many UK property buyers is only going to become more and more challenging.