A little while ago we had the latest figures out from Palmer Market Research about the state of our beloved industry. Click here to read my post about it. Whilst most of it was quite positive, one of the most striking figures to come out of the report was the surprise drop in the bi-fold market of 7%. Like composite doors, it had been one of those markets that was running rampant. Good solid growth and more choice in the market meant customers could have a field day when it came to picking their bi-fold of choice. However in 2013 something happened which caused that reliability in the product to fail. So what did cause the bi-fold market to shrink?

Housing market performing too well?

During the recession, the housing market ground to a halt. No one was buying, no one was moving. So instead of people sitting on the cash they would have used to help them buy a new house, they used it to improve the home they were already living in. Part of those improvements were installing bi-folding doors. I should know, we fitted plenty of them! But that was the attitude at the time, improve don’t move!

But the last couple of years has seen the UK shift from recession to recovery, and so has the housing market. So my theory is that now people are moving house again, bi-folds as a priority product has now fallen down the list. When people move house, it tends to be the windows and doors that get changed first, along with boilers and the other usual suspects. Bi-folds, glazed extensions etc come later as people start to settle in and think about more longer term projects.

If this is the case, we could see another year of reductions as 2014 has been a strong year in the housing market.

New competition stealing market share?

I’m thinking here the New Wave door. The multi-pane door where all section of the door are independent of each other, rather than connected like a bi-fold is. You can see more about them here. It was always going to be a matter of time until the next stage of innovation in doors came along, and this is the attempt at that. Deceuninck also do this, but they call it the swing and slide door. By all accounts they have done alright.

Do I think these are the sole reason they have caused bi-folds to drop 7% in 12 months? No. The product is too new and is still to take hold properly.

Too much choice?

It might sound a bit odd this one, but stick with it. In terms of bi-folds, all main material groups have a good bi-fold product on the market. PVC, aluminium and timber sectors all have great products on the market, all competing against each other. And that competition is fierce. Quite often I have customers in the showroom telling me they have looked at all three options and can’t make their mind up. Not surprisingly, they end up not making a decision.

So could there be too much choice out there? Has the bi-fold market flooded itself and is it now working against it? I think there could be a hint, a waft of that, but that’s all it is. Choice in general is a good thing, but a symptom of choice is a more delayed decision time. The more options to consider, the longer it will take for people to decide on their choice.

In reality, I think the main reason is an energetic housing market, with a sprinkling of the other two reasons above. The bi-fold market will shrink whilst housing remains strong. When it slows, it will find it picks back up as people’s spending habits change.

What are your thoughts? Is housing to blame? Are there other forces at play? All comments welcome in the section below