PHMI report shows P&H merchant sales end year on upward trend

PHMI report shows P&H merchant sales end year on upward trend

Sales through specialist plumbing and heating merchants continued their upward trend in the final quarter of 2021, according to figures released by the Builders Merchants Federation in its latest Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index.

Despite there being four fewer trading days in Q4 2021, absolute sales increased by +6.4% against Q3 2021. Comparing like-for-like sales, adjusted for the difference in trading days between the two quarters, shows an increase of +13.5% in Q4.

Year on year comparisons also show a slight upward trend, with sales in Q4 2021 up by +2.0% on Q4 2020, when there was no difference in trading days. Compared with the more normal, pre-Covid year of 2019, Q4 sales were up by +1.6% with one more trading day in 2021 (although like-for-like sales were flat at -0.1%).

A review of the year shows sales from January to December 2021 rose by +18.3% over 2020, with two less trading days in the most recent period. Adjusting for that difference, like-for-like sales increased by +19.3% in 2021 vs 2020. Annual sales were also higher than in 2019, with 2021 recording an absolute increase of +2.7%.

Bill Davies, Sales Director at James Hargreaves Plumbing Depot, said: “We saw record sales in 2021; 24.5% up against 2020 and there are still plenty of reasons to feel optimistic for the current year. However, there are already clear signs that the effect of price increases within the plumbing/heating market are making things more challenging.

“We have seen record percentage price increases from numerous suppliers, some applying more than one, and surcharges that now seem to have become unofficial price increases. Couple these increases with the pressure of the general cost of living and it could lead to homeowners delaying projects.

He continued: “To offset these price increases we are already seeing some customers looking for lesser branded products – searching for that price advantage. So while the market remains buoyant, the pressure on pricing and margins is the biggest challenge for 2022. It could be a tough year, but one that could still prove rewarding. Positivity and hard work very much among the key elements needed.”

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research which produces the report, commented: “Quarter four PHMI figures for the market show that sales through specialist plumbing and heating merchants have continued to show momentum.

“As we move into 2022, demand from homeowners for more efficient heating and hot water systems to counteract rocketing energy costs will undoubtedly drive sales, although the squeeze on household budgets may reduce the appetite for other home improvement projects. A buoyant housebuilding forecast for 2022 though will surely keep merchants busy while the repair, maintenance and improvement picture becomes clearer.”

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 are said to represent over 80% of the UK’s specialist plumbing & heating merchants’ sales. Moreover, 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.

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