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New trades survey results

We recently commissioned a survey asking builders, plumbers, electricians, plasterers, decorators and roofers about a range of topics including where they buy materials, how they find out about new products and the trade magazines and websites they read. We also asked about how they got into the trade and whether they would encourage the next generation to follow them. Over 800 tradespeople completed the survey.

Purchasing decisions
National merchants and wholesalers are the most common place for builders, plumbers, electricians and plasterers to buy materials. Decorators are far more likely to choose a specialist merchant (62%) than either independent / local merchant (18%) or national merchant (9%). In addition, roofers tend to prefer local or independent rather than national merchants - 57% compared to 29%.

In terms of where tradespeople find out about new products, the survey revealed that despite the growing number of different sources of information, merchant staff are still a key part of the process. Across all trades 44% of respondents said they find out about new products from merchant staff. In fact, among the roofers surveyed the merchant teams were the biggest source of new product information alongside recommendations from friends and colleagues. 62% of respondents reported getting new product information from merchants compared with just 24% saying the same for trade magazines. Conversely, plumbers and electricians are the groups most likely to find out about new products from trade magazines.

Despite this, one of the key findings of the research was that there is not one source that is significantly more important than others. Tradespeople get new product information from a mix of different sources with trade press, merchants staff, web research, social media and recommendations from friends or colleagues all scoring similarly.

Magazine readership
As with many industries, trade publications still play a significant role, whether they offer information on new products, advice or entertainment. The research revealed that for each trade the magazine readership tends to be relatively concentrated. With the exception of roofing, each sector has one magazine that is read by more than 65% of respondents. The plumbing press was revealed to be the most diverse with five magazines read by more than 40% of plumbers.

When asked how they would raise an issue with a product, a complaint to the merchant was by far the most common response – once again demonstrating the valuable role that merchants play in the industry. Telephone and email were the two other most common methods for making a complaint, with Twitter and Facebook the least likely options across every group. Among the trades, roofers and plasterers were the groups most likely to say that they don’t complain about a product and will just not use it again.

Routes into the trades
The research also asked how they joined their respective trades. Across all trades, apprenticeships were the most common route into their profession but this still only represents 31% of respondents. The next most common reason for joining a trade was a recommendation by a friend or relative. For every trade they were least likely to have been recommended by a careers advisor or teacher.

Overall 17% of respondents had joined a family business, with plasterers (31%) being the most likely to have done so, followed by decorators (24%) and builders (21%). When asked if they would encourage their son or daughter to follow them into their profession, the responses were quite varied across the different trades. Builders, plumbers and electricians were more likely to answer ‘yes’ than ‘no’ when asked if they would encourage their sons to also join the trade. However, all three groups were less likely to encourage their daughters. In contrast, roofers, decorators and plasterers were more likely to say that they would not encourage either a son or daughter to pursue the same career. In addition, the research suggests that respondents in every trade are more likely to recommend the job to a son than a daughter.

Finally, for those tradespeople with children who have not joined their parent’s trade, the single most common job for them to have pursued is teacher. The most popular sector to have joined is medicine, followed by the IT industry. Among the children of tradespeople who joined a different trade, carpentry and joinery was found to be the most common followed by training to become an electrician.

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