Sales in the home improvement sector in Germany increased by 1.6 per cent last year to a gross total of EUR 18.75 bn. Sales on the same store area grew by 1.3 per cent. This information was released by the German industry association BHB. In presenting the figures, the spokesman of the BHB board, Ralf Bartsch, referred to the unusually large impact of the weather in 2018. The cold spell in March, for example, caused a 16.6 per cent drop in sales, while an unseasonally warm April boosted them by 22 per cent. This showed "the extent to which DIY and home improvement stores depend on the garden business," said Bartsch, who runs the Brüder Schlau company. Touching on the issue of climate change, his fellow board member, Franz-Peter Tepaß of Obi, commented that "we have really felt for the first time in the last year that buying behaviour has changed." Sales of classic DIY store ranges have fallen, with tile sales declining by 3.6 per cent and electricals down by 1.8 per cent. On the other hand, garden furniture sales rose by 8.7 per cent, garden equipment by 6.9 per cent and garden watering solutions by 4.5 per cent. The highest overall sales were achieved with the construction chemistry/building materials categories (EUR 1.89 bn) and by plumbing/heating (EUR 1.75 bn). The garden equipment range (EUR 1.32 bn) displaced tools (EUR 1.31 bn) from the number three slot for the first time. According to the BHB, the sales increase of 7.7 per cent in the technology/office/entertainment assortment category shows the relevance of the smart home product trend, which is included in this category. As far as e-commerce is concerned, the BHB currently estimates that online sales account for between five and six per cent of the most recent total gross sales for the sector, which would be equivalent to around EUR 1 bn.