Construction recovery will be slow, says Grafton boss

Group says sales to end April 13.5 per cent up

Builders’ merchant group Grafton, owner of the Woodies (above) and Atlantic Homecare chains, said it is seeing “absolute” sales growth in the Republic.


Recovery in the construction industry will continue to be slow and gradual, according to Gavin Slark, chief executive of Grafton, the builders' merchant group and owner of the Woodies and Atlantic Homecare chains.

Speaking after the group yesterday told shareholders at its annual general meeting that sales to end of April this year were up 13.5 per cent on the same period in 2013 at €654 million, Mr Slark said Grafton is seeing “absolute” sales growth in the Republic.

“But predominantly it is still small scale, it is the small building jobs, there isn’t a sudden recovery in large scale-projects or in people building housing estates,” he said.

“I do think that we are in for a number of years of growth but I do think the early part of the recovery will continue to be quite slow and quite gradual.”

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Budget measures designed to aid construction by giving house owners tax breaks to carry out repairs and improvements to their homes were “helpful”, he said, but he added that many people had reached the point where they could no longer hold off on carrying out work on their properties.

In order to be eligible for the scheme, Thursday was the deadline for signing contracts. According to the Revenue Commissioners, homeowners and building firms agreed 3,780 such deals with a value of more than €65 million.

"I think consumer confidence is starting to recover in Ireland but I think in terms of our key market, the Irish recovery and consumer confidence is still behind where it is in the UK. The UK started to come back a little bit earlier: we're into very early stages in Irish recovery," Mr Slark added.

About 75 per cent of Grafton's revenue now comes from the UK, where it operates trade suppliers including Buildbase, Plumbase, Electricbase and Selco. Sales in the first four months there were 13.4 per cent ahead of the same period last year.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas