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When we talk bathrooms we’re talking front of wall products, the ones that touch water being the province of the plumbers.
This group of professionals, as with just about all the sub trades within the building and construction industry, is experiencing a pinch.
Not a pinch in terms of products or work available but in terms of skilled pairs of hands – that’s right, the skills shortage…
Amid talk of an uncomfortably ageing trade, Mico Plumbing & Bathrooms GM, Richard Doig, agrees that the skills gap is “still very much a concern for the industry”.
He describes the shortage as “serious” adding: “We absolutely want to see ways to attract more apprentices to keep the trade healthy and delivering for New Zealand.”
However, in terms of the bathroom marketplace, Mico sees the current state of play as healthy, which is as much a reflection of plumbers’ ability to work across new builds, renovations, maintenance and repair work as the still strong growth being seen in the value of building work put in place.
Having said this, Richard Doig, like many others, recognises that in Christchurch, although additions & alterations remain fairly buoyant, new builds are certainly well down and this is leading the local plumbers to occupy themselves in repair and maintenance activity.
In the Auckland market, he feels, there has been some slowing down, perhaps as a result of some extended consent time frames, but new build activity in the City of Sales remains strong overall.
One segment of the market that has informed and coloured Mico’s offering in recent times is the rental sector.
Mico’s FOW Category Manager, Louise Cook, talks about addressing the needs of this market: “Our Raymor and Adesso brands offer a wide range of selection to fit any bathroom project, size and space.
“This offering allows us to react to the current market direction we see happening alongside supporting our customers with all their requirements.
“Building our ranges to address market needs has seen strong brand growth in both Raymor and Adesso over the past 5 years, and it isn’t slowing.
“Our teams are passionate about our brands and this renders to our customers and their clients with all our product offering.”
FRONT OF WALL STYLES & TRENDS
In terms of styles and trends, Mico’s Louise Cook says that “black is the new black” and is continuing to grow.
However in terms of tapware, chrome is still the number one seller, although Mico is also seeing other coloured finishes slowly coming to the fore, for specific types of bathrooms.
“You can create a stunning look by just adding a coloured piece of tapware and not changing much else,” she says.
This interest in coloured tapware is also flowing into accessories and even showers and shower fixings – handles, hinges etc – and heated towel warmers.
“People are looking to create a family of product in terms of what they’re doing with their bathrooms,” says Louise Cook.
“I also think the ‘nature’ theme and that whole look and feel is very much still on trend. It’s been around for a while but I think it’s definitely hanging in there.”
In terms of connected bathrooms and smart home technologies, it is very early days indeed in bathrooms but, led by lighting, it is definitely on the bubble of becoming more important, says Mico’s FOW Category Manager.
Understanding and designing for smaller spaces is the other big factor affecting front of wall products, says Louise Cook.
“We’re seeing showers now coming in basically just about any size you want, with custom made trays etc to fit a specific space.
“It’s the same with toilets – as well as comfort heights getting taller to match our ageing population, they are also getting more compact as well to fit into tighter spaces.
“Storage is probably the other big one at the moment – with smaller spaces you still want storage in your bathroom.”
Reece looks south, expands again
By the time you read this, Reece Group will have acquired the Edward Gibbon business and the Zip Plumbing Plus stores in Christchurch and Takanini.
The acquisition will bring Reece a strong South Island presence, as well as adding 120 employees and 12 stores to its New Zealand operation, which currently consists of 11 Reece Plumbing stores, seven Heatcraft branches and a DC in Auckland.
Reece Group CEO and Managing Director, Peter Wilson, says the acquisitions provide Reece Group with further expansion into New Zealand’s $7.1 billion hardware and building supplies industry.
“The acquisition extends Reece Group’s New Zealand branch network from 18 to 30 stores that supply trade and retail customers with plumbing, bathroom and HVAC-R products and equipment.”
Under the agreement, management at Edward Gibbon and Zip Plumbing Plus will remain in place although it is expected that Reece will “implement logical synergies” between the businesses moving forward.
These acquisitions add to Reece Group’s strategy of integrating plumbing-related businesses, including Heatcraft NZ (2018), Viadux (2017), Actrol (2014) and LG Carder (2006).
Adding value with accessories
As you can see by the comments from Mico’s bathroom experts elsewhere, bathroom accessories are gaining new prominence as demand grows for perfectly co-ordinated towel rails, robe hooks and toilet rolls holders.
Kohler for example has just released a range of accessories to complement its Artifacts tapware range (image above).
Matching single and double towel bars and rings, robe hooks and two types of toilet paper holders also feature detailed turnings and finials, elegant spouts and swing-lever handles in a choice of three metallics – vibrant brushed bronze, polished chrome and a unique oil-rubbed bronze with hints of copper.
UK bathroom market returning to its roots?
The UK bathroom market has grown by no less than £235 million ($454 million) in the last six years, according to a new report from MTW Research with robust demand driving growth ahead of inflation.
The report also says that part of the market is in the process of moving away from full service provision (design-install/build-supply) and returning to its “roots as a DIY products retail channel”.
This will be music to the ears of the UK’s low to no margin pureplayers (who are set to see 30% growth in the next five years) and big shed operators.
Conversely, says the report, the rise of more integrated, technically complex products, like showers with digital controllers (set to grow by 30% over the next few years), will mean growth too for the turnkey bathroom specialists.
MTW’s numbers however also indicate some softening of the UK bathroom market, some of which might be attributed to Brexit, although this is being moderated by the spending of millennials and empty nesters at opposite ends of the market.
Looking further out, the research also concludes that the market will be worth a further £675 million ($1.3 billion) in sales for bathroom retailers by 2022.
Versatile shower tray system
The Newline ProFinish Tile Tray System replaces the need for traditional screed and cement sloped bases.
The tile tray system can be custom manufactured to suit individual requirements and can accommodate virtually any waste position.
It is easy to install, suitable for above floor or recessed application and comes with a 20-year warranty.