Changes are automatically saved. Reset Settings

ASA Study Examines Contractor Buying
Habits/Relationships with Distributors

Through the previous efforts of ASA’s D.NEXT embracing the future initiative, ASA has become increasingly aware of changing customer trends, especially as long-standing relationships dwindle due to distributor and contractor retirements and consolidation.

As such, it has become a key goal of the association to provide its members with insight into trends that contractors are dealing with that will affect the distribution channel and the supply chain as a whole.

In order to achieve that, ASA recently conducted its first Voice of the Contractor survey to nearly 30,000 plumbing and mechanical and industrial/mechanical pipe, valves and fittings contractors throughout the country.

The goal of this brand-new product, spearheaded by ASA’s Operational Excellence Strategic Council and the council’s business intelligence task group, is to provide in-depth insight to ASA members (distributors, manufacturers and reps) on what PHCP-PVF contractors are thinking on topics such as buying habits, expectations from their distributor partners, training, inventory and more.

“We couldn’t be happier with the support from ASA distributor members that provided their customer contact lists to make this new Voice of the Contractor survey possible,” said Meagan Owen, chief strategy officer at Greenville, South Carolina-based Eastern Industrial Supplies and the chairwoman of ASA’s Operational Excellence Strategic Council. “Having nearly 30,000 emails of contractors will generate robust results.”

In addition to assistance from ASA member distributor companies, ASA also received support on this project from Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors—National Association (PHCC), Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and Plumbing & Mechanical magazine, all of whom distributed the online survey link to their members/readers.

5 Key Findings from the Report
  • On average, 38% of a contractor’s total purchases with wholesalers are made through call-in phone ordering, while 29% are made through walk-ins at the counter—or 57% of respondents rely on long-established phone/counter ordering methods.
  • Younger-aged contractors (less than 45 years old), rank inside sales service and support as the most important factor when selecting a distributor to purchase from.
  • Almost two-thirds of contractors do not have a formal succession plan for their business.
  • Only 6% of contractors that took the survey fall into the 20-34 age-range category.
  • The average contractor is holding 30% more inventory now than they were prior to 2020.
Demographics and More

In terms of the general demographic of survey respondents, more than 40% are service plumbers with nearly 30% responding as commercial/mechanical and industrial contractors.

Nearly two in three respondents operate a shop with 1-9 employees, while 45% have a fleet of 2-5 trucks. About 60% of respondents are first-generation independently/family-owned companies with more than 20% being in the second generation and just over 5% reaching the third generation.

Of note to distributors, more than 60% of contractor respondents say they do not have a formal succession plan in place.

A portion of the survey centers on contractor preferences and purchasing methods where about a third of respondents say the counter salesperson most influences their purchasing decision with inside sales next at nearly 30%.

About 40% of survey respondents list calling in an order as their preferred method of purchasing products from a distributor, while more than 60% say their preferred method of receiving products from a distributor is via delivery to the shop or jobsite.

Survey respondents also were asked to rank the reasons they don’t order product online from a distributor. Topping the list was the preference to work with someone in-person, while a poor search engine/can’t find products they are looking for online, ranked second.

On the topic of training and organizational development, nearly three out of four respondents say they prefer live, in-person training, while just over a third say lunch-and-learns at the contractor’s shop is the preferred type of in-person training. In terms of training sources, nearly half of respondents say they prefer to learn about new products and industry trends from manufacturers and manufacturers’ reps, while about 30% say they like to learn from distributors.


On the inventory front, nearly 60% of survey respondents say they were inventorying products prior to the pandemic of 2020, while more than 40% responded no. On the flipside, more than 70% say they are currently inventorying products. The average increase in inventory being held current day compared to 2020 is about 30%, survey respondents note.

For those who are inventorying products, nearly 40% say they use a small stock room to do so, while just about a third say the use a truck stock platform, while nearly 30% note they have a full warehouse.

A resounding nearly 80% of contractor respondents say they are not interested in doing a vendor-managed inventory program with wholesalers, while less than 10% say they are currently engaged in a VMI program with their wholesaler partners. About 5% say they currently participate in a truck-stocking program run by a distributor.

How to Receive the Full Report

Sarasota, Florida-based Farmington Consulting Group, a leading market research and growth strategy firm in the electrical, plumbing and HVACR distribution industries, executed the survey and provided ASA the full, in-depth report that includes breakouts of the results by contractor size, type, age, geographic region and more.

ASA distributor members who provided customer contact lists and contractors who took the survey will receive the report free of charge. ASA members (distributors, manufacturers, reps and service providers) who would like to receive the full report can purchase the report for a nominal charge of $99.

Non-ASA members who would like to purchase the report can do so for an IMARK Plumbing-discounted price of $250 (normally $500).

To purchase the report, contact ASA Manager of Data/Market Intelligence Bri Baresel at

How Do I Get a Copy?

The report is available to all ASA member companies (wholesalers, manufacturers, master distributors, reps and service providers) for a nominal charge of $99.

NOTE: If you are an ASA member wholesaler who provided ASA with a customer contact list, the report will be sent to you free of charge.

Non-ASA members can purchase the report for an IMARK Plumbing-discounted price of $250.