The latest Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index (PHMI) report shows total value sales through specialist Plumbing & Heating merchants were up 9.6% in Q1 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

Volume sales were 0.4% higher and prices also increased 9.1%. With one more trading day this year, like-for-like sales were 7.8% up.

Quarter-on-quarter, Q1 2023 sales were 4.0% higher than Q4 2022. Volume sales climbed 4.3% while prices fell 0.3%. With five more trading days in the most recent quarter, like-for-like sales were down 4.2%.

Total value sales through specialist Plumbing & Heating merchants for April 2022 to March 2023 were 9.2% higher than the same 12 months the previous year. Volume sales were marginally down (by 0.4%) but prices were 9.6% up. With two less trading days in the most recent period, like-for-like sales were 10.1% higher.

March 2023 value sales were 6.3% up on the same month a year ago, inflated by price rises (+7.2%) as volumes were lower (-0.9%). There was no difference in trading days.

Month-on-month, March value sales were 11.3% higher than February. Volume sales were up 12.3% and prices were down 0.9%. With three additional trading days in March, like-for-like sales were 3.2% lower.

The PHMI Index for March 2023 was 115.9. With two less trading days compared to the base period, the like-for-like sales index was 104.1.

Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Research, which produces the report, commented: “It looks as though 2023 has picked up where 2022 left off, with rising prices and falling volumes.

“However, the monthly comparisons give reason for optimism as the double digit increase in month-on-month sales was attributable to a double digit increase in volumes.

“Is the tide finally beginning to turn on inflation? Any easing in inflation would certainly be welcome by the housebuilding sector which continues to slow, impacting merchants with strong ties to the new build trade.

“But where one door closes another one opens. With material cost inflation finally beginning to show signs of easing, the repair, maintain and improve (RMI) market is back.

“Trades are expecting to be busy on renovation projects as homeowners swap move for improve, and dream homes for more budget friendly ‘project’ homes. Expect to see a continued uplift in products which improve efficiency or are kinder to the planet.

“2023 could be tough for merchants, but there will always be opportunities to increase sales when you follow the trends to give your customers what they want.”