The aluminium renaissance has been in full swing for years now. It would not be accurate to describe it as just getting going. And the more proactive installers and fabricators in our industry have seen the advantages to be gained from this swing in home owner demand from the start.

Right now, there are more installers and fabricators selling both PVCu and aluminium products than ever before (probably) and are making the most of this boom in demand for aluminium window and door products.

However, as with all bandwagons, they at some point get full. Enough join it to the point where it becomes far too crowded, and there are more people and companies on board than are required to service demand.

When it comes to aluminium, I do fear that we might be edging closer to that wagon being full.

Late to the party

A few years ago, as the market was beginning to move strongly towards residential aluminium, there was a portion of fabricators that moved quickly to ensure they were scooping up as much of that new business as possible. Installers were quickly wanting aluminium solutions so that they could go to home owners with a product rising in demand.

Back to present day, and these fabricators and indeed installers who moved quickest are probably now seeing the most benefit when it comes to sales and margins of aluminium. They’re expanding, earning new market share, building new production facilities and selling more aluminium than ever before. They moved first, and now they’re getting their rewards.

Some however are only just making that transition, which means they’re already playing catch up with their competition. They’re the ones having to make up ground and lost time. The companies who were proactive enough years ago are the ones to beat.

It’s not a closed opportunity though. I do see residential aluminium growing strongly for the next decade or so, which means there is plenty of new business to be made out there. The problem is becoming a loud enough voice in the residential aluminium market to compete with the now established aluminium businesses out there.

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A two-tier system in the making

It’s possible that what we’re seeing in the bi-fold market now happen in the residential aluminium market. In a bid to win business, shout loudest and make some sales, installers and fabricators will cut corners, slash their prices and margins, all in an effort to win business away from their nearest established competition.

The end result, as we are now seeing in the world of bi-folds, is a two-tiered market. The upper tier, dominated by the longer established, arguably more professional outfits, selling and producing properly, maintaining a margin and determined to do residential aluminium in the right way. The lower tier, populated by companies playing catch up, undercutting their way to business, not worrying about the margins or the quality of what they’re selling and producing.

We have had that in PVCu for years. There has been a most definite split between the higher end, more prestigious part of PVCu, in comparison to the budget part of the market where the “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” attitude still prevails. The end result here is an eclectic mix of very brilliant products and some not so brilliant products.

I can see the same thing happening to aluminium in not so many years time, as more of the industry rushes to make new revenues from the rise in demand from home owners. And it will be a shame. Aluminium is most definitely considered a high-end product. It’s why aluminium bi-fold doors have become so popular. But as more and more fabricators and installers get involved, the focus on sales will move away from quality and inevitably down to price. It seems to be the way with our industry.

When it comes to fabrication, it might already be too late to start getting into aluminium. Not that it’s not worth a shot. But there are already a good number of quality aluminium fabricators, and a number of long established PVCu frabricators who have already decided to run an aluminium product alongside their PVCu ones. It’s likely that installers who want to sell aluminium products ave already found their preferred aluminium fabricator, so any new fabricators might find it difficult to win any new business from this part of the market.

The price to be paid by being slow on the uptake.

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