I visited the lovely people at Ultraframe today. Was a bit of a grim drive over the M62 though. Poured down with rain most of the way there and the Monday morning traffic was just gross. Still, we sat patiently in the queues and got there in time. It was great to see so many new things about to hit the market. It is seriously impressive stuff, but that is for another day.
As the presentation began, they opened up with this stat: in 2006, which was peak year, there was a total of around 240,000 conservatories installed in the UK. By 2012, that fell to just 80,000. That is exactly one third of the total just 6 years before. Talk about the bottom falling out of a market. This was one hell of a drop. Figures for 2013 aren’t out yet, but I really would like to know where they stand to see if the market has bottomed out or if there is still more room to go.
Where did it all go wrong? I suppose a fair share of the blame can be put on the financial crisis which started in 2008. The last thing a struggling market needs is a near world banking collapse. That certainly isn’t going to help matters. But it can also be blamed on changing customer tastes. Around the time of the financial crash, the industry was just starting to break out the new stuff which was showing customers that no longer would they have to put up with a plastic white box stuck on the back of their house. They could have something far more substantial, that looked much more part of the house, was warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer and that cleaned itself. Well, at least the roof part anyway.
Put those two together and the conservatory market never really did have a chance. So, lets be honest with ourselves, the conservatory as we and the general public is dead. However, what I have seen on my latest visit to Ultraframe shows that the glazed extension is very much alive and kicking, and it looks nothing like a conservatory – which is vitally important, I cannot stress that enough.
What I have seen will is going to transform what we think a glazed conservatory is now. And here’s the key, the way the industry is about to go, we can start saying goodbye to architects and designers. Manufacturers have realised that by bringing in various services and easy to price, purchase and install products, it saves us the hassle of dealing with idiot architects that don’t have a clue about the products we’re selling.
Lets not mourn the death of the conservatory too much, because from what I have seen, things are about to get very exciting!