After decades of state control, Syria is turning towards a more market-based economy with modern infrastructures. The government is also promoting new sectors such as manufacturing and tourism in order not to rely too much on its oil reserves.
Construction growth for new dwellings is to a large extent dictated by the government, whose plans have fallen short in the context of population growth. Therefore a sustained housing building programme is overdue to avoid future shortages, given Syria's predominantly young population. State-run companies still carry out most of the building projects, but in an effort to boost the construction industry in Syria, the government is now allowing foreign nationals to own property and for foreign companies to bid for construction projects.
Typical Syrian houses have one bathroom containing a squatting WC (with water valve or mixer), a washbasin with full pedestal and a shower unit. A shower curtain surrounding a tiled floor area is used in preference to a solid enclosure.
Luxury apartments and villas can feature several bathrooms with locally-designed ceramics (often painted in vivid pink or gold colours) or expensive Western models. It should also be noted that a luxury dwelling has at least one bathroom with a squatting WC.
Average prices are very low, not only relative to the European markets, but also when compared to the Syrian neighbouring countries. Local end-users are extremely price-sensitive.
Syria has a production estimated at 1.1 million units of ceramic sanitaryware, of which an estimated 42% are actually used. Total annual exports reach 130,000 units currently although this figure is expected to decline to as little as 70-80,000 units. The main destinations for export are Iraq and Jordan. Imports are allowed from Arab countries only, totalling 440,000 units per annum, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia the main suppliers. Combined sales of European imports account for less than 1% of the market.
Low-cost products are often sold through small, private retailers normally found in rural areas. Often described as 'garage supply', this accounts for 57% of Syria's total sanitaryware market by volume.
Most ceramic retail stores, especially in the main cities, are often well-equipped and offer a wide range of products. For the middle and luxury segments, importers have showrooms in the key cities of Damascus, Alepp and Latakia. These showrooms are usually new-built and their layout, displays and promotional materials reach European standards. They offer sanitaryware, hydromassage bath tubs, ceramic tiles, taps and mixers and sometimes even kitchen furniture.
Around 14% of sanitaryware is sold via wholesale and there are no DIY stores. Only 5% of ceramics are supplied directly to projects.
BSRIA's new study Middle East Market for Bathroom Equipment is to be published in two phases, in February and June 2006. The study covers main bathroom equipment markets for nine countries.