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Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index confirms 2020 second half recovery

Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) in partnership with MRA Research and GfK has launched a new statistical report focused exclusively on the plumbing and heating market.

The first edition of the Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index (PHMI) analyses sales values through plumbing and heating outlets in Q4 2020, and provides an overview for the full year.

Sales in Q4 2020 continued the bounce back from the low point in Q2. A direct comparison of Q4 sales in 2020 and 2019 found sales were down by just -0.4%, with one more trading day this year.

Looking back, the impact of the first lockdown on 2020 Q2 results had seen year on year sales fall by -46.3% compared with Q2 2019. However, the start of the recovery was apparent in Q3 2020, where sales were down by -5.3% on the same period the previous year.

Highlighting the bounce back in the second half of the year, P&H sales in the final quarter of 2020 were +11.9% higher than Q3 2020. However, with Q4 having five fewer trading days, average sales a day (which take trading days into account) were up +21.3%.

Cumulative year-to-date sales turned negative in March 2020, and fell sharply in both April (-17.8%) and May (-24.5%). Since then, sales have steadily improved, finishing down -13.2% on 2019 by the year end.

PHMI trend data is indexed on the 12 months of 2019. The fourth quarter PHMI index (based on 2019 sales) was 103.4, making it the first quarter to exceed 100 in 2020.

The research report is the first to analyse point of sales tracking data collated from a range of specialist plumbing and heating merchants with combined annual sales of £3bn, representing 75-80% of the total sales value of this market.

Commenting on the launch, BMF chief executive John Newcomb said: “Plumbing & Heating is an important segment within the overall building materials market, with an annual value of around £5.4bn. While P&H sales through generalist merchants are reported in our established Builders Merchant Building Index, the majority of transactions are through specialist P&H merchants which have not previously been reported. The new Plumbing & Heating Index rectifies this and will deliver a far more accurate picture of sales activity in this segment.”

Emile van der Ryst, senior client insight manager – Trade at GfK added: “With the crisis still in full swing and the roadmap to the end of lockdown recently announced, the launch of the Plumbing & Heating Index comes at an appropriate time. This will enhance visibility and shed light on an important part of the trade sector which up until now has not been possible.”

The data for the PHMI is taken solely from P&H specialists, including City Plumbing Supplies, Graham, James Hargreaves Plumbing Deport, PTS and Wolseley, who form part of GfK’s Plumbing & Heating Merchants Panel, and there is no overlap or double counting between the PHMI and the BMF’s established Builders Merchants Building Index which analyses sales at generalist merchants.

5 March 2021

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