It has been an extraordinary year. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting businesses across the globe, we’ve been looking at how the plumbing and heating (P&H) industry has been impacted. The RWC COVID-19 Plumbing and Heating Survey includes getting the views of plumbers and installers on business and economic confidence, digital adoption, sourcing of materials, and how to adapt for the future.
Business Confidence – Looking to the future
Probably the most important question on everyone’s mind is – will there be enough business to stay afloat? The effect of the COVID-19 crisis on small and medium-size enterprises’ (SMEs) performance is immense, causing a huge amount of uncertainty.
29.63% of participants that we surveyed say they expect it will take almost a year to recover, with worries over jobs, the lack of a vaccine and fears over a second wave of a spike in infections. Although, over a quarter (25.93%) are more confident, saying it will take 6 months before business gets back to normal.
A third of installers list their main concern being the availability of new jobs and projects. However, while domestic repair and maintenance jobs initially declined due to consumer confidence, new build and renovation projects surprisingly remained strong, with 42.59% of installers saying these are the most common type of jobs they are working on post lockdown.
Working during COVID-19
Another big discussion is how COVID-19 continues to affect the way businesses work.
Whilst finding work may be more challenging for some; when a job does arise 31.48% of installers say their biggest concern is product availability to complete the project. 62.96% of installers have been buying from merchants’ branch, and just over a quarter (25.93%) of participants have been ordering via click & collect.
We also asked whether COVID-19 will change the way installers will work at customer sites. 96.3% say they would implement a 1m social distancing rule, and nearly three quarters (74.07%) of installers are confident about carrying out work on-site post lockdown. However, 55.6% of those surveyed had concerns about working on-site while wearing a mask.
Has COVID-19 accelerated the use of digital in plumbing and heating?
Most organisations nationwide had to shift to remote/digital working models almost overnight when the country went into lockdown. However, even though some P&H contractors have adopted digital methods, the results of our survey suggest that P&H installers still feel more comfortable having face to face interactions with customers and merchants. 70.37% answered that they are not using video calls/ smartphone apps to assess jobs before attending in person.
The same goes for purchasing of materials too. While many have turned to buying products online throughout lockdown due to limited stocks at merchants or branches being closed, 66% of installers stated they would return to buying in-store from merchants where possible.
Training never ends – what our survey found
Training and continual development is a key part of plumbing and heating, especially as there are always new technologies and legislative updates in the marketplace. From our survey, it’s great to see that many businesses are investing time in learning about the latest industry trends. But how do installers and businesses prefer to receive information?
‘How to’ videos seemed a popular form of learning and training with over half (61%) of installers voting for this option. Meanwhile, over three quarters (79.63%) voted that their preferred content to read is technical articles.
When asked how businesses and installers are keeping up to date with industry updates and innovations, just over half (53%) said via email updates from manufactures and suppliers. The preferred method of communication with manufacturers and suppliers is a telephone call coming out on top at 59.26%, with email being the second most popular choice at 57.41%,
There’s no doubt that installers are still uncertain about what the coming months will bring. That said, a degree of normality is returning. Plumbing contractors are eager to take up work that comes along and feel confident about working on-site while following the 1m social distancing rule. New build installations and renovation work seem to be offering most job opportunities at this time, with some emergency repair and maintenance call outs picking up.
To help installers during these extraordinary times, we are working around the clock to ensure plumbing materials from our brands such as – JG Speedfit, Reliance Valves, SharkBite and JG Underfloor – are available when and where required. Our technical engineers are also on hand to offer best practice installation guidance and on-site support.