Yesterday it was my top 5 products to watch in 2019, which you can read by clicking here. Today I want to look at 5 big moments that will happen to the window industry this year and what effects they could have.
These moments could be singular one-day things, moments that span a number of days, or something a bit longer.
FiT Show 2019
In May of this year the industry will once again get together at the NEC in Birmingham for three days of new products, seminars and meetings. It will be the only three days of the year where a large part of the industry will all be together in the same halls. It won’t happen again until 2021, and we have some pretty serious things to talk about.
By the time we get to the exhibition we will be two months deep in our new future outside the European Union. No doubt that the dust will be settling still. What will be the effects? We can predict, but until it happens we won’t actually know until it happens. Will there be material shortages? Will there be labour shortages? Will home owners stop spending? We will all be digesting the after affects, assuming it still happens, and what we can do to navigate the risks.
What I fear however is that it will overshadow another incredibly important issue and that is the skills shortage. We need to use the FiT Show to talk about and then implement ideas to attempt to reverse the skills drain that has ravaged our sector for a decade. Building Our Skills will be there, which is pretty much the only industry initiative trying to tackle the problem. But if Brexit is still in the headlines and our industry is having to deal with real-world effects, then I think this could be pushed onto the back foot.
Then there is Brexit itself. We’re coming up to the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s deal on January 15th, which is widely expected to be voted down. No one really knows what happens there. An amendment from Castleford MP Yvette Cooper on the day this was published was voted through Parliament which aims to force Government to get Parliamentary approval for a no-deal Brexit.
At this moment in time no one actually knows what is going to happen after January 15th. That will be a big moment in itself. But it is March 29th that is the truly major moment for everyone and every industry in this country. Will we keep our heads and get on with getting on? Will hysteria take over? Will we see public disorder if a portion of the population doesn’t feel like it got what it wanted?
From where I see it, if things get any more fractured, we could see genuine disorder in the lead up to Brexit day. We could see business levels drop off in the weeks leading up to Brexit day. Home owners will put aside major spending decisions until they feel like they know what is going to happen in the near term. The whole of March could be a really rocky month for the window and door industry.
The skills gap
Consider this your year-long moment. We’re going to be hearing lots more about the skills gap as we head towards the FIT Show in May, but we all know that our industry continues to be crippled by a severe shortage of skilled workers.
We’re in our quiet period right now. Fast forward to Spring and Summer however, when we’re all in peak season and running around like headless chickens, that skills gap is going to be even worse.
We’ll all be talking about it. We’ll all be frustrated by it. Building Our Skills is attempting to garner support from across the industry. The way I see it, we either back it and get behind the effort, or resign ourselves to an industry that is going to lose a quarter of it’s people in the next ten years.
Grenfell inquiry to restart
The second phase of the Grenfell Inquiry is due to start at the end of 2019. There is no specific date for this from what I can gleam online, but the end of 2019 is touted as the start date.
Why is this important? In the reports to come out of the first phase of the investigation, they damned the fire doors that were in the building. There were a number of problems reported after testing of the doors left in the building. It led to some serious soul-searching and even some companies taking fire doors off the market until they felt comfortable that the products were capable of doing the job.
The starting of the inquiry again is going to bring back into focus fire doors and questions over their true ability to get the job done. As it happens, I saw on Twitter today that after a Freedom Of Information request it has been found that over 25,000 doors that have been installed into social housing are one of the five types of fire doors that failed tests. This is an issue that is not going to go away, and the restart of the Grenfell Inquiry at the end of this year will be another significant moment.
This is another year-long moment, but one we cannot afford to ignore, and that is the rise of anti-plastic sentiment among consumers. We saw it break ground in 2018 with campaigns from various people and broadcasters rightly bringing it into the public domain. Single-use plastics are a scourge on society and do immense damage to our environment.
However, that doesn’t mean we need to be writing off the material either. PVCu, although unplasticised, remains the single most important window and door material in the residential sector. As the public continues to ditch plastic in 2019, what we need to be sharp on is ensuring that home owners know that PVCu can be used in a sustainable manner. That it can be recycled up to ten times, giving it a life span of hundreds of years.
During the course of this year, the industry needs to be talking up PVCu, else risk it being caught up in the anti-plastic movement.
These are my own thoughts on what the five big moments or talking points will be this year. Agree? Disagree? Has something been missed? Add your thoughts via the comments section below.
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