Imports, mills usurp German distributors’ market share

Although the Covid-19 shock throttled business at Germany’s stockholding distributors in 2020, the year-on-year drop in sales turned out relatively moderate, at 3.4% to 10.3 million tonnes, according to distributors federation BDS.

Jörg Feger, head of research at BDS, notes that 2019 had already been a weak year, and that in 2020 the first and last quarters saw higher sales than the respective 2019 quarters. Many distributors had filled their inventories before the lockdowns came, and in Q4 benefitted from industrial business catching up, he explains. During the year, member companies kept inventories cautiously low. By 31 December, they stood at 2.17mt, which was 5.3% below the end of 2019, Kallanish understands.

The product group that saw the steepest fall was plate, reaching 813,000t, around 11% less than in 2019.  Given that demand for plate has not changed much recently, Feger suspects more consumers are supplied directly from the mills, or from port warehouses outside Germany.

The same explanation applies to coil products. Here, cold rolled coil saw the most pronounced dip, by 8% y-o-y to 1.17mt. The difference was much narrower for hot rolled coil, which dropped 2% to 1.09mt, and for hot-dip galvanized coil, which fell 1.3% to 2.86mt. HDG therefore stands out as the best-sold product, and Feger notes that last year’s tonnage was higher than in any of the years from 2010 to 2017.

Christian Koehl Germany