UK waterproof panels market expected to grow by 10% in 2019

The market for tiles is mature, and although it is growing in value terms, market conditions have become more challenging since 2016/17 as competition from online-only retailers and price pressures have increased, with the cost of imported goods rising and manufacturers unable to pass the increase down the supply chain.

While the market continues to benefit from the trend for fully tiled bathrooms and wetrooms, a move away from tiles towards metal, glass and acrylic splashbacks in kitchen areas is restricting market growth somewhat. Waterproof so called ‘wetwall’ panels have also become more popular as a substitute for tiles in bathrooms, and have taken share from the tiles market.

We recently decided to undertake some research into the waterproof panels market to find out what the reasons for this growth was, and at what rate the market is growing. We found that the sector has seen exceptionally strong growth, in particular in the residential refurbishment sector, in the past 2-3 years.

Reasons for the recent growth include a wider range of materials becoming available, as well as a wider choice in terms of designs, patterns and textures. Acrylic panels also represent a fast growing, and relatively high-value, segment of this market.

While companies serving the lower end of the market tend to focus on a narrow range of styles, such as plain white, black/grey and sparkle or glitterwalls, marble styles have also been popular with older buyers, as have panels replicating the look of tiles or glass.

Some brands have launched bolder and more exciting designs to attract younger buyers, including bright colours and metallic shades, as well as bespoke ‘photowall’ options. Another new development has been the introduction of designer ranges, as in the wallpaper market, where panel designs are created by recognised designers.

Products in the ‘wetwall’ sector have also moved upmarket to some extent, with higher quality and slimline panels now available, along with more exclusive finishes. But at the same time, there has been growth at the lower end of the market, where increasing awareness of the products’ benefits compared to tiles, such as low cost, speed of installation and easy aftercare, has contributed to demand. Waterproof panels have also become more widely available in DIY stores and merchant outlets. Some outlets, such as Wickes, are also promoting own brand ranges.

The number of companies involved in the market has also increased in the last two years, and there has also been some consolidation within the market in recent years, as companies within related sectors have sought to expand their waterproof panel product ranges, and companies traditionally in the laminate sector has added acrylics to their product ranges. Leading brands include Multipanel, Fibo, Wetwall and Mermaid Panels.

MRA Research estimates that in 2018, the market for waterproof panels, including splashbacks, was worth around £60-70m. The market is thought to have seen double digit growth since 2016, with growth escalating in 2017 and 2018, and expected to continue into 2019.

While the overall tile market is expected to remain flat in 2019 in value terms, the waterproof panel market, however, is expected to see growth in excess of 10% in the year and it is likely that panels will continue to take market share from tiles in the bathroom sector.

The Waterproof Panel Market Summary Report can be downloaded for free clicking the button below.

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MRA Research focuses on market and customer insight in the building materials and construction markets. For more information, email 

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