Plumbing and Heating Equipment and Supplies

SIC 5074

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry consists of companies that primarily wholesale hydronic plumbing and heating equipment and supplies. Industry products include steam and hot water boilers, prefabricated fireplaces, oil burners, plumbing fixtures, solar heating panels, and water softeners. Companies that primarily install plumbing and heating equipment from their own stock are discussed in SIC 1711: Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 6,505 establishments operated in the plumbing and heating equipment and supplies wholesaling industry. Together these firms employed 74,315 workers who earned a combined annual payroll of $3.8 billion. About 41 percent of establishments employed fewer than 20 workers, and only about 5 percent employed more than 100 workers. The plumbing and heating equipment and supplies (hydronics) wholesalers segment was divided into 25 specialties that were dominated by plumbing and hydronic heating supplies, plumbing fittings and supplies, and heating equipment (hydronic).

As part of the larger hardware, plumbing, and heating equipment and supplies market, wholesalers' annual sales increased to $96 billion in 2010, up from $81.5 billion in 2007 and $77.5 billion in 2004. A decrease, however, occurred in the larger sector's employment figures, from 234,000 in 2004 to 219,380 in 2010. The U.S. Bureau of Labor projected an additional 4.5 percent drop in employment from 2008 to 2018.

According to a 2011 report from IBISWorld, the industry was expected to recover from the economic recession at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, although wholesale bypass continued to be a problem. According to the report, "Growth in construction spending from the nonresidential market will likely buoy demand for plumbing products." In addition, "A revival in the housing market will spur demand for industry wholesalers, with homeowners buying plumbing and heating supplies."

In the early 2010s, the British conglomerate Wolseley plc was one of the largest distributor of heating and plumbing products worldwide and once owned Ferguson Enterprises Inc. (purchased in 1982 and based in Newport News, Virginia) and Familian Corp. (purchased in 1987 and based in Los Angeles, California), two of the top three industry leaders in this category. On June 18, 1998, Wolseley announced its integration of Familian into Ferguson into a new, single entity. The merger brought the employee count of the combined company to almost 7,000 and the number of locations to 391 in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In 2003 Ferguson Enterprises extended its market presence and acquired Triangle Supply, Inc., of Dallas, Texas. By 2011 Ferguson had 1,350 branches and 11 distribution centers. That year the company posted annual sales of $8.1 billion with 16,800 employees.

Other leaders included WinWholesale Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, that partnered with more than 450 plumbing and heating/air conditioning wholesale distributors in 2011, and W.W. Grainger, Inc., of Lake Forest, Illinois, which distributed more than 1 million products, including plumbing and heating/air conditioning equipment, to 2 million commercial customers.

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