Disappointing start to 2024 as Q1 value sales drop -3.6% year on year, and volumes fall -6.4%

The latest Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index (PHMI) report, published in May, shows Q1 2024 total value sales through specialist Plumbing & Heating merchants were down -3.6% compared to the same quarter in 2023. Volumes sales fell -6.4% and prices crept up +3.0%. With one less trading day this year, like-for-like sales were -2.1% lower.

Total value sales for Q1 were flat (-0.3%) compared to the previous quarter, October to December 2023. A +2.8% increase in volume sales was offset by a -2.9% fall in prices. With three additional trading days in Q1, like-for-like sales were down -5.0%.

March 2024 value sales dropped -13.6% on the same month a year ago. Volumes also decreased by -14.5% and prices edged up +1.0%. With three less trading days in March 2024, like-for-like sales were -0.7% lower.

Month-on-month, March value sales were down -5.9% compared to February. Volume sales were -3.8% lower but prices also decreased -2.2%. With one less trading day in March, like-for-like sales were -1.2% lower.

Total value sales through specialist Plumbing & Heating merchants for the 12-month period April 2023 to March 2024 were +0.8% ahead of the same period a year before (April 2022 to March 2023). However, volume sales were down -4.2% and prices increased +5.3%. There was no difference in trading days.

The PHMI Index for March 2023 was 100.4. With one less trading day compared to the base period, the like-for-like sales index was 103.7.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces the report comments: “It’s been a disappointing start to the year with volumes continuing to decline, as economic headwinds subdue consumer demand for new build housing and hard-hit homeowners postpone repair, maintenance, and improvement projects. The latest figures from National House Building Council (NHBC) show that new home registrations in Q1 were down 20% on last year, a sharp drop in numbers which will be keenly felt by trades and merchants alike.

“While the industry struggles to cope with the ongoing downturn, there are other issues on the horizon for merchants. In April, Scotland introduced the New Build Heat Standard which will outlaw direct emission heating systems – such as oil and gas boilers – in new homes and buildings and some conversions. All eyes will be on how our industry in Scotland adjusts to the new regulations ahead of the roll out of the Future Homes Standard in England and Wales in 2025.”

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

The PHMI data is from GfK’s Plumbing & Heating Merchant Panel, which represents over 70% of Britain’s specialist plumbing & heating merchants’ sales. The PHMI is a brand of the Builders Merchants Federation, and reports are produced by MRA Research. There is no overlap or double counting between the PHMI and Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) sales data.

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