It is estimated that the builders and plumbers merchants’ market will see growth of 2% in 2019, compared with 2018, in value terms. The end use sectors of the merchants’ market have fared differently reflecting each sectors’ construction performance. However, most end-use sectors have experienced growth since 2016, stimulating demand for merchants’ products, with key sectors including housebuilding, offices, infrastructure, industrial and education.
The merchants, which are dominated by a group of 5 organisations, remain an important distribution channel in the overall construction market. However, the merchants’ market has undergone some significant structural changes, with many national operations consolidating and restructuring to streamline and enhance multi-channel offerings, and the regional sector has expanded branch networks.
Competition from other channels, particularly the internet and home improvement multiples, continues to impact on the market. However, merchants appear to have outperformed home improvement multiples in recent years and their expansion into e-commerce has offset some of the movement towards internet-only distributors.
Prospects for the merchants’ market remain optimistic, although more constrained than in recent years. The UK’s need for greater numbers of new dwellings has long been recognised and is now a significant focus of Government policy, with a target of building 300,000 new homes a year by 2020. Other factors likely to affect the merchants market include the cost of fuel and energy.