Anglian reports a £3.3m loss before Christmas. Everest’s investor admit their investment in the company is not doing well. Safestyle UK share price is less than a third of the value it was and is now under threat from similar named SafeGlaze UK. I cannot think of a time in my 13 years in the window and door industry where it has been such a tough time for the national installers out there.
It does now beg the question, with the industry landscape changing so much and home owner tastes and demands evolving, could we soon see a window industry without national installers?
You do have to question whether the business models of the national installers remains valid in 2018. The window and door industry is far more niche, bespoke and higher end than it used to be. Even the shiny white part of the sector has grown up somewhat. The remaining “budget” part of the industry seems to get a little bit smaller each year, with less of that part of the cherry to go for.
Unfortunately, the national installers only appear geared up to cater for the budget end of the market and nothing higher. And if you look at the figures and commentary around those companies, it makes for poor reading.
You only need to look at other industries in recent years and other companies that have failed to move with the times. They have very quickly been caught out and have gone into liquidation. Look at the decimation of the high street. The list of stores that failed to embrace change is almost endless. I fear that we are witnessing the very same thing in our industry with he largest retail installers. So much of it remains dated, be it in terms of advertising, sales methods or even just the product offerings.
On the flip side, the success of smaller companies who have embraced a newer way of doing business, and the range of new products on offer, is obvious. So many more installers are now choosing to sell higher-end window and door products, and have tailored their sales process into more of a design service. Something a lot more personal for the home owner. When you’re smaller you can be more agile and adapt to change as and when it happens. The bigger you are, it is much harder to change your company ethos and corporate attitude. Unfortunately, it can also be the ending of a big company.
So could we actually see a window and door industry without national retail installers? I would say that it’s a genuine possibility. All of the major players look weakened right now. Reports of reps leaving, depots closing, financial losses and other negative commentary paints a very negative picture. I think we could see a scenario this year where one buys out another to try and consolidate and capture market share. But it would be a temporary stopgap rather than a long term solution.
There has been such a big swing from home owners towards a more personalised, pressure-free sales process that this type of business model cannot last much longer.
Which brings us on to the company really in the spotlight right now.
Safestyle vs Safeglaze
If you read the last trading update from Safestyle UK, you might have seen this sentence:
The activities of an aggressive new market entrant have added to an already competitive landscape and impacted the Group in certain areas of its operations. As a result, the Group’s order intake in 2018 to date has been disappointing and below our expectations.
Not good. The company share value was already dropping before this new company came about. And this new company is SafeGlaze UK. Yeah, I know. You may have seen their advert on TV recently. Again, yeah, I know.
SafeGlaze is the trading name of Niamac Developments Ltd, a company that was incorporated on 21st August 2017 and is based in Bradford. It is believed that there are members of the founding family of Safestyle involved in the forming of this new company.
One thing is for sure, they are certainly being aggressive. Their fitting capacity has increased at a staggering rate in a matter of a few short months, with reports of the company expanding into new depots very quickly. There are anecdotal reports, although cannot be verified, that reps, surveyors and installers from other companies are jumping ship and joining SafeGlaze. You would certainly call them a market disruptor. But, if you follow these sorts of things, I have not seen such rapid expansion of a window company like this in my time in the industry. They certainly seem to have Safestyle in their sights, with Safestyle feeling the pressure to name them in their latest trading update, something you don’t often see.
Safestyle is due to release a further trading update next week. I anticipate the news to be negative once again. It should also include a future outlook. It is due on 22nd March, so that would be a day to watch the share price for sure.
On a more serious matter, it’s important to note that the national retailers are still very big companies who employ thousands of people. If these companies have to downsize to survive, or even close altogether, there will be a lot of people out of work. It is up to the boards of these businesses to undertake major and rapid innovation and changes if they are to keep the doors open. It is hugely competitive out there, and the pace of change has never been so quick.
Frankly, we’re in a crazy turbulent period in the window and door industry right now. Grab the popcorn.
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