The plumbers’ merchants market was worth an estimated £4.2 billion in 2017, representing growth of around two per cent from 2016, according to a new report by AMA Research.
The overall trend in recent years has been positive, and early indications for 2018 are for a continuation of the modest recovery experienced from Q3 2017 onwards, although there is still a degree of restructuring activity, as major players adapt to changing conditions and slowing growth in some key end use sectors.
Although the plumbers’ merchants market has experienced five years of growth since construction output recovered in 2013, there has been considerable variation in the rates of growth between the various end use sectors.
Sectors that have been strong include housebuilding, while residential RMI activity, a significant sector for plumbing & heating materials, has been more modest.
Expectations are for more modest annual rates of growth to 2022, for both new construction and non-residential RMI. Skills shortages remain critical and are a major concern in the plumbing and heating sector, with the skills gap said to be one of the biggest threats facing the UK’s plumbing industry.
The plumbers’ merchants market, which comprises national, regional and local merchants, is dominated by four major merchant organisations, which together account for an estimated 65-70% share, in value terms. These firms operate via a number of subsidiaries, each supplying a range of plumbing and building products.
Prospects for plumbers’ merchants are relatively positive, although current political uncertainties surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU and the consequences in terms of trade, business investment and the availability of skilled labour are already affecting growth, and will continue to do so in the short to medium term.
A stronger focus on energy efficiency and water saving will continue to drive growth in the plumbing and heating sector, providing new opportunities for merchants, and a growing number of merchants have already expanded their ranges to include renewable energy and sustainable heating products as well as water saving solutions.