RCG has made a very interesting and relative point in his last post on his blog. Conservatories have gone out of fashion.

According to his sources, 270,000 conservatories were fit in the peak year of 2004, compare that then to last year where only 106,000 were fit.

The last figure has to be analysed in two ways. The first is that there was the worst recession for 70 years going on at that time, so sales of anything and everything were down. The other way to look at it, as RCG has done, is to face up to the fact that conservatories seem to have gone out of fashion.

Conservatories are in essence white plastic boxes filled with glass. They overheat, get too cold and require lots of cleaning. That’s why extensions have always been the reliable alternative, plus they match the existing house more easily. Conservatories seem to have been a fad for the last 10-15 years. The first wave of people have had them fit, not looked after them and they have been allowed to deteriorate. What sort of image will that promote to people looking to extend their home?

Over the last few years, people attitudes have changed. Conservatories were once seen as a luxury, so much so that it almost turned into a necessity. But now, with the onset of WER’s and a bigger emphasis on energy efficiency, windows and doors have become the more immediate and beneficial home improvement, and so have swamped the demand for conservatories.

Conservatories don’t improve a home’s energy efficiency, nor does it save a customer money on their heating bills. In times like these they are the priorities, and new windows can provide the solutions to these problems.

This rapidly shrinking market has got to worry the companies whose main source of revenue and marketing strategy is conservatories. I have always wondered about the sustainability of the conservatory market as it has been reducing in size significantly over the last few years. 

Some may say you have to innovate, but how far can you innovate a conservatory really? Change it’s colour? It’s still a ‘plastic box screwed on the side of the house’, no matter what colour you make it.

Put a veranda in front? A specialist item not many people will want to pay for as it has no real benefit other than a nicy little fancy extra feature. 

Add extra brickwork and call it an orangery? You still have to have a conservatory style roof, big windows and bi-folding doors. So why would people go to the expense of an orangery when they may as well have a full extension.

The problem we face here is that we operate in a market (conservatort market) which is driven by fashions and fads. Accessories always have, and that is exactly what a conservatory is, an accessory. 

The more reliable and dependable area of our industry will always be windows and doors. Be it timber, aluminium or PVCu, they will always need changing in the long term, and thats where most of the money is going to be in the future.