U.S. shipments of plumbing products will rise nearly 3% per year through 2004 to $9.2 billion, according to a new study from the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industrial market research firm. Shipments of plumbing fittings will grow 2.4% per year to $4.7 billion in 2004, while fixture shipments will increase by 3.5% to nearly $4.5 billion.

Exports of plumbing fixtures will increase as a result of improving economic growth in Latin America and Asia, but imports will rise more rapidly, aided by outsourcing of production from U.S. manufacturers.

Demand for plumbing products is projected to rise from $8.6 billion in 1999 to $10.2 billion in 2004.

The best opportunities for plumbing fixtures will be in aftermarket applications. In the residential segment, repair and remodeling expenditures will fuel demand for plumbing fixtures.

Increases in personal incomes will aid plumbing fixture demand. Shipments of whirlpool tubs, shower stalls, hot tubs and spas will grow, but sink shipments will decelerate from their 1994-1999 pace as housing starts decline and commercial construction activity weakens.

An aging population will build demand for universal-design fixtures.

Shipments of plastic plumbing fixtures will rise by nearly 5% per year, faster than any other material, the study states.

Some of the gains for plastics have come from their use in fast-growing categories such as whirlpool tubs and spas. Other plastics have increased penetration in lavatories, bathtubs and wall surrounds.

The study, Plumbing Fixtures & Fittings, is available for $3,700 from the Freedonia Group. Further information is available by calling 440/684-9600 or visiting www.freedoniagroup.com.