10th March 2011 marks the two year milestone for this blog! I’ve enjoyed writing every post, getting in to the odd scrape and ruffling a few feathers. The conversations and debate has been great! A few weeks ago I was thinking about quitting, but after more thought I decided not to, and plan to write for as long as possible!

To mark this second anniversary, I put a call out on Twitter to see if anyone wanted to write a guest post. First to the call was Mike Bygrave of Roseview Windows.

I want to thank Mike for taking the time out to write his post for me, and would ask you all to read it, I have, it’s a pretty good one!

Two Years in Double Glazing

Happy birthday to Double Glazing Blogger, who’s reached his two year anniversary today. Websites and blogs come and go, but sticking with it and staying enthusiastic for two years is a lot of work. I know – I’ve tried and failed several times. So congratulations DGB!

A lot has changed in the industry in the two years since this blog started, all against a backdrop of recession and regulation changes. However, there have been two major trends which have – I think – changed things more than anything else. And for those who have ridden these trends, things have been a lot better than they could have been. The trends I’m talking about are the internet and diversification.

As a trade fabricator, some days it seems as if the double glazing industry is the last stop on the ‘information superhighway’. Most of our customers are installers, and most of them still work off a fax machine. Even so, there’s been a noticeable move towards email over the past two years. Meanwhile, retail companies are relying more and more on their websites, chiefly as a point of introduction, but increasingly as a direct source of good leads from customers actively looking to buy. As customers research products and companies on the web before making a decision, a high-quality, informative, trustworthy website is an essential sales tool. Just look at the successful Conservatory Outlet network, members of whom get a well designed, well-optimised website as part of the deal. Two years ago few of us would have known what “optimised” even means.

But the increasing importance of the internet goes beyond emails and company websites. We all used to read the trade mags and go to GlassEx to get industry news – now we read Fenestration News and Bullseye online. We read Double Glazing Blogger’s blog and Renegade Conservatory Guy. More recently, a small but growing number discuss the industry on the first forum designed for people within double glazing – GlassTalk. And it doesn’t stop there – we can order products online, we can connect to customers through Facebook, and we’re even using Twitter to do business. Don’t mock – in the last few months have quoted for three or four customers directly through Twitter (we’re @RoseviewWindows by the way).

All this adds up to more ways of advertising and selling our products, better ways of connecting with customers, cheaper ways of ordering stuff in and new ways of keeping abreast of industry developments. And that can only be good for business.

The second trend of the last two years is diversification – particularly diversification into higher value products with added benefits.

During a recession we have to re-evaluate our market. When times are hard, customers with less disposable income are often the hardest hit, while more affluent customers don’t feel the pinch quite so much. The natural result is that companies who traditionally service the broader end of the market look to target the smaller but more affluent end. And that means changing the products they offer to better suit the new market.

We’ve already seen a dramatic swing from uPVC front doors to composite doors. Not too long ago everyone wanted white plastic doors with rambling rose leaded glass – you’d see whole streets with, essentially, the same front door on each house. Those days are gone. Now customers don’t want the same door as their neighbour, they want something a bit more individual, distinctive and higher quality. A similar thing has happened with conservatories – just look at the adverts in the papers and online and see how many people are now selling orangeries, garden rooms and sun lounges (often in hardwood). At the same time, the last two years have seen an explosion in the number of bi-fold doors being sold.

Returning to my own area, we’re seeing the same trend happening in sash windows, as more and more companies move away from the cheaper ‘mock sash’ end of the market and target more affluent customers with high quality uPVC sash windows. We’ve been fabricating sash windows for a long time, but in the past two years we’ve broadened our trade customer base considerably as more installers realise that they can benefit from less competition and higher job values and margins. Of course, that’s good news for us, but it’s also part of a healthy trend towards more diverse, high quality products in an industry that has traditionally been a little less adventurous than it is now.

Price will always be important when selling double glazing, but as the market changes it won’t necessarily stay at the top of the list as the most important factor in a sale. In a buyer’s market things like quality, reliability and suitability become much more important – it’s no co-incidence that organisations like DGCOS have arrived to help reassure consumers. When times are difficult the companies that survive are the ones who recognise this and adapt accordingly.

There’s no doubt that the last two years have been challenging ones for the double glazing industry. However, increasing use of the internet and diversification into high-end products (like sash windows) are two important tools that help companies ride out the storm and emerge the other side stronger, with a bigger market share and in a great position to move forward and grow when circumstances improve.
Mike Bygrave
Roseview Windows

Again, thanks for Mike for putting in the time for writing the above.