Internet sales of plumbing products surge

The UK online distribution channel for plumbing and heating products grew by 28% in 2015, according to the ‘Internet Plumbing and Heating Market Report’ from AMA Research.

Shower controls and bathroom taps were the largest sector. This was followed by bathroom furniture and accessories, baths and sanitaryware, heating products – such as boilers and standard radiators, shower enclosures and screens and trays.

The report said that an estimated 80% of plumbing products were purchased online in 2015. The purchases were made through specialist online plumbing retailers, with a majority being ‘pure-play’ retailers that do not have a showroom and only trade online.

Non-specialist retailers account for around 20% of the internet plumbing market and include merchant/trade outlets, DIY multiples, marketplace websites such as Amazon and eBay, and other retail outlets.

Key drivers in the upsurge of online purchasing is 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 buyers.

The UK is Europe’s leading e-retail economy and has around 39 million internet users every day. AMA claims that around one third of UK shoppers now check their mobiles for better prices when in a physical store.

There has also been an increase in ‘Click and Collect’ purchases, with an expectance of shorter delivery times, with next day delivery often required, free shipping and free returns.

Own-label products sold online are also performing well, prompting some leading online specialist plumbing retailers to supply their own-label lines.

“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 AMA Research director Keith Taylor. “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.”

Despite this surge in the market, AMA Research forecasts that the pace of growth will gradually start to slow down as the market matures. It is estimated that the UK internet plumbing and heating market will increase by over 52% between 2016 and 2020.

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