For the past few weeks I have been talking about the importance of new products and trends, such as colour, flush windows, timber look joints as the future of our industry. This is true, simply because home owners want that variety to be able to add character to their homes. White windows simply don’t do that in the main.
We cannot hold on to the idea that shiny White windows are the future of the fenestration industry. They don’t inspire the home owner, or the industry in general.
All about the margins
But it’s not just design and inspiration that we have to avoid the temptation of trying to go back in time. It’s the fact that profit margins in that type of business are simply not there any more.
I had a conversation with an industry friend of mine at the end of last week, who said that compared to shiny White windows, the foiled and coloured products they produce bring in three times the margin than that of smooth White windows. Others have said similar things to me in the past. When it comes to coloured products, foiled, flush or whatever modern option it may be, the profit margins in those products are far higher than that of White.
So from a business point of view it makes total sense to expand down that avenue. Yes flush and foiled windows are harder to make than shiny White windows, and yes there are more remedial calls because of it. But to ignore the profit margins that these products bring in would be almost negligent.
We complain as an industry that we don’t make enough profit, well here is a stunning opportunity in which to do so. For those wanting to forge a profitable future, with products that reflect a modern industry that caters to the requirements of the home owner, embrace colour. Embrace flush. Embrace timber look joints. Embrace new hardware ranges. Yes it takes more work, more planning, more management. But the rewards are clear and they are there. Better profit margins.
Down, but not out
Whilst the outlook for the industry is clearly in diversity of product ranges, shiny White windows will still play a part. However, the industry has to understand the role it will play in the future of the sector.
In five to ten years, I see shiny White windows being confined to the budget end of the market, new-builds, DIY-ers and similar types of demographics. They won’t go altogether, but they may only be seen in more specific types of the market place.
The problem however is going to be that White windows are going to be very much the place where companies are happy to undercut each other to win a contract. AKA the race to the bottom. White windows have become USP-less. There are so many other product options out there with unique selling points, it leaves White windows to be fought over on price. And there are plenty of those types of companies about happy to chuck shiny White windows out the door at the lowest price to make sure their competitors don’t win the business.
That kind of business is going to be incredibly low margin, and reliant totally on volume sales. That is a business model that is going to become harder and harder to sustain as the years role on, as both home owners and installers/fabricators understand that to make better profit it means selling more of what is harder to make and what is a more bespoke offering.
Our industry faces a lot of problems right now. The youth and skills crisis. Brexit remains unresolved and has created an uncertain economy. Our green credentials and sustainability are about to be questions by the general public. If our industry knows what is good for it, it will focus heavily on the products that bring in the better margins. We have a rocky road coming up, and it will need us to beef up the margins to be able to cope and navigate our way through it.
The days of profitable shiny White windows are dead. It’s all about the colour and a unique offering.
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