The internet is the fastest growing distribution channel of the overall UK plumbing and heating products market and has experienced strong growth levels in the last 5 years. In 2015, the internet distribution market for plumbing products increased by 28% on the previous year. Shower controls and bathroom taps represent the largest sector of the internet plumbing market, followed by bathroom furniture and accessories, baths & sanitaryware, heating products such as boilers and standard radiators, shower enclosures and screens & trays.
It is estimated that in 2015 around 80% of plumbing products transacted on the internet are through specialist online plumbing retailers, of which a majority are pure-play retailers that do not have a showroom and only trade online. There are now some very large online specialist distributors that account for significant shares. Non-specialists account for around 20% of the total internet plumbing market and include merchant/trade outlets, DIY multiples, marketplace websites such as Amazon and eBay, and other retail outlets. Non-specialists also include plumbing manufacturers that may make specific products available for consumers to buy online.
Key drivers include the increasing availability of internet access, increasing usage of mobile internet using smartphones and tablets, and the rise of online review sites and blogs, which is now considered the most trusted form of advertising among potential buyers. The UK is Europe’s leading e-retail economy and now has around 39 million adult users accessing the internet every day, and trade sources report that around one third of UK shoppers also now regularly check their mobiles devices for better prices whilst in a physical store. Other trends include an increase in ‘Click and Collect’ purchases, and an expectance of shorter delivery times with next day delivery often required, free shipping and free returns.
Own-label products sold on the internet are performing particularly well, and some leading specialist online plumbing retailers are exploiting this opportunity by exclusively supplying own-label lines. Other online retailers, however, have expanded the number of plumbing brands they offer in order to capture a wider audience. It is likely that the number of specialist internet plumbing suppliers will continue to consolidate as this market sector matures. An increasing number of pure-play online retailers may also offer a showroom facility in order to grow and compete with store-based specialist plumbing suppliers and non-specialists.
“While the level of internet access in households is likely to reach saturation point in the near future, online purchasing of heating and plumbing products is far from mature” said Keith Taylor, Director of AMA Research. “Consumers are already using the internet for purchases of individual items, in particular replacement products, but future growth is largely dependent on the uptake of online purchasing among plumbers and installers. This is likely to grow significantly as a result of the increasing use of mobile internet, improving quality of suppliers’ mobile websites or apps as well as the ability of installers’ existing supply chain to adapt to this behaviour and offer services such as Click and Collect.”
Even though the internet plumbing market has continued to increase as a result of an improving UK economy and housebuilding levels and the added convenience and low prices offered by online purchasing, forecasts indicate that the pace of growth will gradually start to slow down as this market matures. The timing of this change of pace is difficult to estimate, with ongoing technological developments influencing buyer behaviour, however, it is estimated that the UK internet plumbing and heating market will increase by over 52% between 2016 and 2020.
The ‘Internet Plumbing and Heating Market Report – UK 2016-2020 Analysis’ report is published by AMA Research, a leading provider of market research and consultancy services within the construction and home improvement markets. The report is available now and can be ordered online at www.amaresearch.co.uk or by calling 01242 235724.