I feel as though our industry is currently at an inflection point. A specific period of time where it is deciding on which direction it needs to take as a whole in order to remain relevant and attractive to itself and the general public.
Indeed, our industry has gone through some quite extreme evolution in the last decade. The most obvious result of that is the sheer immense amount of choice of products now available to all companies within the supply chain. Never has diversification been so strong since I have worked in this industry.
But our innovative little sector cannot keep all options on the table indefinitely. Some will have to fall by the wayside, and that will be determined by the trends we are seeing now.
It doesn’t look good for the standard PVCu window.
The end of standard
Shiny white frames. 45 degree welds. Casements. Can’t really call these selling points of PVCu windows right now. Rightly so in my opinion. These are hallmarks of a generation of PVCu products that are rapidly falling out of favour with home owners and the industry alike.
Instead, we have a world of colour both in foiled options or bespoke colour spraying companies. We have flush windows and now flush French doors. We have graf welders which make welds seamless. We have timber look joints to go with those flush windows. Even the 70mm profile is starting to look very dated. Why, when these options are available, would plain White and 45 degree welds look an attractive option?
The answer is they don’t, and that is why we’re seeing demand for flush windows, colour and smooth welds shooting sky high right now. In our showroom we have set it out so that you explore the ranges as you go down the room, seeing something a little bit sexier each window you look at. The end result is that more and more home owners gravitate towards our flush and coloured windows. There remains little appeal now to shiny White windows.
Another thing I would mention is that this is evolution being driven by home owners and not the industry imposing it’s ideas on them. The public are most certainly behind the force of things like colour and design. Unlike triple glazing for example which in comparison has been a rather spectacular flop. That was our idea as an industry that has never really taken root. A product that wasn’t absolutely necessary and therefore never inspired home owners.
At this point I would estimate that the number of casement windows being made by fabricators is still more than flush windows. However, I don’t think it will be that long before we start seeing some fabricators reporting that more flush windows are being made than casements. That’s a trend that is very much on an upwards trajectory that won’t slow up. There’s no need for it to. The cost of a flush window compared to a casement is minimal, and looks so much better. There is nothing prohibitive about the product for home owners. Rather, it is simply down to a matter of personal taste as to whether someone picks a flush window over a casement for example.
It was proposed to me that it might not be that long before we see standard welds disappear from PVCu windows altogether. Whilst I most certainly do prefer the look of a timber look joint or a smooth weld done by a graf welder, I’m not sure we can count out standard welds just yet. Perhaps they will be earmarked for certain types of windows on certain types of contracts, which will keep it alive. In the general residential market though I do think that timber look joints and smooth welds will quickly take over as the norm in a few years.
Add into this the huge range of window hardware available, there’s endless ways for home owners to ensure they get a bespoke window option for their property. They have something they feel they can invest their time and aspirations into properly, which for me is a more important factor than price.
No going back
Flush windows. Colour. Wood grains. Bespoke colour options. High end hardware. This is very much the future of the PVCu part of the market within UK fenestration. No more limitations. I fully understand that running a fabrication business with all these variables isn’t easy. But the profitable, long term decisions never are.
The days of big shiny White business are long gone. At least for the fabricators that wish to move with the times. The only area I see shiny White remaining dominant is in council contracts, social housing and other similar areas where budgets determine what can be used. If you’re a fabricator who prides itself on operating a modern business and seeking new profitable avenues, you won’t be looking at this type of work anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about it. There are plenty of companies out there happy to sell shiny White cheap windows at low margins.
If you’re looking to increase frames per week, it’s not going to be in White it’s going to be in colour. It’s not going to be in casements it’s going to be in flush. It’s not going to be with standard welds it’s going to be with seamless or timber look joints. All design features which grab the attention of both installers and home owners.
Remember, home owners have had four decades of plain White windows and doors, and all the various downsides they have brought over the years. Why would they want the same again? They wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, you wouldn’t. So the direction our industry is travelling in now is very much the right one as far as I am concerned.
Speaking now with my sales and creative head on, the products I am selling now to the public are far more interesting for me as well. I can get enthused by a flush window with timber look joints in Irish Oak. It looks a million times better than a plain old White window. I can sit down with a home owner and get them 100% engaged in the process because they actually like what they see.
So, do I see the complete eradication of casements, standard welds and White shiny frames? No. There will always be a market for it, but that market will get smaller and smaller every year until eventually the new norms in the residential sector will be the features I have mentioned in this post. Over time the bog standard stuff will be reserved for certain commercial contracts that won’t have the budget to spend on something a bit better.
The future for our industry is good.
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