Plumbing pushes back to pre-pandemic proportions

Plumbers merchants are as busy as they were before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, according to the latest Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index (PHMI) report, based on data from GfK’s Plumbing & Heating Merchant Panel. Specialist plumbing & heating merchants’ sales in February were up 1.2% on February 2020, on an equal number of trading days.

This took total sales above their pre-pandemic level, indicating recovery in the sector despite the country remaining in lockdown throughout February. It was also an improvement on January’s figure, which saw sales 5.0% lower than in January 2020.

The monthly comparison was also positive. Plumbing & heating merchants’ sales increased by 3% in February compared with January 2021, again with no difference in trading days.

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Looking at specialist merchants’ combined performance over the latest 12 months compared with the previous 12 month period, sales remain 13.6% behind last year, but as the reporting approaches the first anniversary of the initial lockdown, with its severe impact on sales in April and May 2020, the scope of returning to MAT year-on-year growth can be anticipated.

February’s PHMI Index, which contrasts sales with the base period of January to December 2019, was 102.4.

Ian Kenny, Marketing Director for Graham The Plumbers’ Merchant, said: “Local RMI trade sales in our branches have been resilient despite the latest lockdown, particularly for heating products. We’ve also seen recovering sales in specification markets as activity on sites and productivity levels have increased.

“The outlook is positive, with clear opportunities for sales growth through 2021 as restrictions ease, showrooms open and pent up demand is released. Looking ahead there are concerns about price inflation and product availability, and these need to be carefully monitored and managed throughout the year.”

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The new Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index (PHMI) is the first to analyse point of sales data collated from a range of specialist plumbing & heating merchants with combined annual sales of £3bn to chart their performance month-to-month.


The report provides reliable data and a platform and voice for the industry, as well as for leading plumbing & heating brand, and is produced by MRA Research for the Builders Merchants Federation. There is no overlap or double counting between PHMI and the Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) sales data.


About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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