The latest figures from the Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index (PHMI) report show total value sales for November 2023 through specialist plumbing and heating merchants were up 1.7% compared to the same month in 2022. But volume sales were down 4.0% as prices increased 6.0%.

Compared to October, November value sales were up 5.5%. Volume sales recorded a 3.2% increase month-on-month, while prices also climbed 2.2%. There was no difference in trading days.

Total value sales in September to November 2023 were 1.1% higher than the same period a year ago. However volume sales fell 4.2% as prices rose 5.5%. With one more trading day this year, like-for-like sales, which take trading day differences into account, were 0.5% lower.

Comparing September to November 2023 to the previous three-month period (June to August), value sales increased 14.2%. Volume sales also grew 6.1%, while prices increased 7.6%.

Plumbing & Heating merchants value sales in the 12-month period to November 2023 increased 6.0% compared to the previous twelve-month period. Volumes slipped 1.7% and prices increased 7.8%. With one more trading day in the most recent period, like-for-like sales were 5.6% higher.

November’s PHMI index was 120.4. With an additional trading day compared to the base figure, the like-for-like index was 113.1.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces the report, explained: “UK construction fell again in November as yet more storms and floods brought projects to a standstill. Housebuilding was down 3.9%, however, housing repair and maintenance work increased by 3.8% in the three months to November according to ONS data. Despite mixed economic headwinds, RMI is showing itself to be more resilient than forecasters expected.

“According to the GfK Consumer Confidence Index published on 15 December, consumer confidence is rising, up -2 points to -22, a 20-point recovery from the battering it took under Liz Truss’ short-lived Government.

“In fact, it’s rising on all five of GfK’s metrics. But on those that matter most to building, Personal Finance situation over the last 12 months was up two points to -14, 14 points higher than December 2022; and Personal Finance situation for the next 12 months was up one point to -2, 27 points better than December 2022.”

Joe Staton, Client Strategy Director at GfK, added: “Despite the severe cost-of-living crisis still impacting most households, this slow but persistent movement towards positive territory for the personal finance measure looking ahead is an encouraging sign for the year to come.“

Rigby concluded: “The Major Purchase Index was also up one point to -23, 11 points higher than December 2022, which is particularly encouraging for home improvements in 2024.”