When you look at the residential installation market, the king of the materials is definitely PVCu. It has been for many years, and will continue to do so for probably many years more. But that level of monopoly is slowly on the decline, thanks to the renaissance of aluminium and timber windows and doors in the residential market. The figures for proof are plain to see, PVCu is on the decline. You only need to look at the most recent Insight Data market report to see that for yourself. The number of PVCu fabricators is declining, with those left picking up the remaining business left by the ones leaving the market.

Click to see the full Insight market report 

Nearly one in two offer secondary material

According to the same report, 47% of installers now offer a second material alongside PVCu, be it timber or aluminium. I suspect that just a few years before this number would have been much lower. But it’s on the rise because homeowner’s tastes are changing. They are looking for a more varied selection. They don’t want what everyone else has got. The internet has done a very good job of showing that there is more to life than PVCu and that the new generation of timber and aluminium products provide a very good alternative to PVCu.

And this is why installers that only offer one product, namely PVCu, are going to have to change that and change it fairly quickly. We have seen the very strong rise in timber alternative products. It’s risen because the aesthetics of this type of PVCu are probably the best we have ever seen out of the material. But it has also risen because timber is once again falling into favour with homeowners. The interest in timber windows and doors has bred a new level of interest from people looking either for timber itself, or something which looks just as good but doesn’t need to be treated or painted.

You can’t argue with the figures, 47% offer a second material for a reason. There are growing markets and those installers want a piece of the action before others get there. But for those 53% that are not yet thinking about a second material, time is ticking. The 47% of installers that are already offering an aluminium and timber alternative are slowly bedding down in their areas, solidifying their hold on the timber and aluminium markets in their areas. Making it harder for new companies to enter those local sectors. So the longer the 53% leave it, the harder it’s going to be to successfully offer a second material.

Eroding sales

There is another risk to all this as well. The longer aluminium and timber windows and doors maintain their growth, the more PVCu sales are going to decline. For those that refuse to change and continue to offer PVCu as their sole option, the bigger the risk is that not only will they continue to scrap for sales in their PVCu market, but will also start to lose sales to those offering aluminium and timber.

This is an attack on two front. The battle for sales on the declining PVCu front, and potentially lose sales on the aluminium and timber front. Now this isn’t a matter of all three battling it out for supremacy, this isn’t where the market it. I believe we’re about to enter a period where the sales of PVCu/aluminium/timber are going to become split more and more equally. No, this is a battle for installer to change. Something which our industry finds very difficult to do at times. If installers fail to see where the market is going and remain stubbornly in the now, their life in the installation market may not be as long as they think.

Do you agree? Should installers be looking at a secondary or even third material option? Will PVCu remain king forever? All comments welcome in the section below.

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