The internet is the fastest growing channel of the overall UK plumbing and heating products market and has experienced strong growth levels in the last 5-7 years. In 2017 alone, the UK internet plumbing market is estimated to have increased by 17% in value terms. However, forecasts indicate that the pace of growth is gradually slowing down over the course of the review period. This change of pace can be partly attributed to market saturation of internet users and fewer new suppliers entering the market.
Despite the current uncertain economic climate with the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK internet plumbing and heating distribution market has continued to grow. With strong demand driven by lower prices and added convenience, internet retailers have been able to capitalise on changing consumer cross-channel shopping habits with a notable shift towards online purchases. Own-label products sold on the internet are performing particularly well.
Shower controls and bathroom taps represent the largest sector of the internet plumbing market with a share of around 23%, followed by bathroom furniture and accessories, baths and sanitaryware, heating products such as boilers and standard radiators and shower enclosures, screens, trays and wetroom products. Towel warmers and decorative radiators account for a much smaller share of the total market.
Key factors that have influenced growth in this market over the past few years include the growing number of UK households with internet access – estimates indicate that around 90% of households have access in 2017 – and significant growth in the level of online e-retail sales over the past 7 years. The usage of mobile internet technology has also increased substantially, with a growing number of purchases being made through mobile handsets or tablets.
The majority of plumbing products sold on the internet are through specialist online plumbing retailers, of which around 65% are pure-play retailers that do not have a showroom and only trade online. Non-specialists account for around a quarter of the total internet plumbing market and include merchant/trade outlets, DIY multiples, marketplace websites such as Amazon and eBay, and other general retailers. Non-specialists also include plumbing manufacturers that may make specific products available for consumers to buy online.
“Factors such as improved delivery/collection options, the growing range of products available online, along with technological improvements should drive Internet sales of plumbing products.” said Hayley Thornley, Market Research Manager at AMA Research.
“By 2022, it is estimated that the UK internet plumbing market will have increased by around 43% compared to 2018. However, it is likely that the pace of growth will start to slow as thismarket matures.”
There is still scope for growth – there are still around 2.8 million UK households which do not have an internet connection, and the use of mobile internet technology is also likely to grow significantly. Although in the medium term, the number of UK households with internet access is likely to reach saturation, with the majority also likely to have a faster broadband connection, the trade/installer channel is less mature in terms of online purchasing and it is estimated that, despite growth slowing down, the market will continue to grow by 10-15% per year for the remainder of the forecast period.