First of all, the term “conservatory” is very much dead now. The product has come along leaps and bounds in just a few years and frankly they look and perform nothing like their very dated predecessors. The term “glazed extension” is much more appropriate.
Secondly, Brexit or no Brexit, the outlook for the glazed extension market looks very bright indeed. Here’s why the outlook for the glazed extension sector looks pretty positive.
The industry a while ago now realised that the old conservatory market was a pretty dull and drifting place to be. Product development hadn’t really gone anywhere. Polycarbonate, still very much garbage, was still being used in fairly large quantities. Home owner’s love affair with the conservatory was more akin to divorce proceedings than a flourishing marriage. Then one hell of a recession led to the lowest installation levels of conservatories ever in 2008, well under 100k.
Things had to change otherwise the market was at risk of being lost forever. And change it did. Research and development teams got their heads together, did some fact finding to understand what a home owner really wanted from an extension to their home and went back to basics: build quality, true energy efficiency and climate control, that sense of it being solid rather than something being flimsily stuck on the back of a home. Out of that we got a whole host of new products.
Solid roofs. Architectural products such as Ultraframe’s Loggia columns and Cornice gutter. Highly advanced glass roof products. Orangery systems which looked more 1800’s than 20th century white plastic. A focus on brick built extension-type structures. The sector was suddenly rejuvenated and home owners were taking notice.
A product worth selling
If installers aren’t excited or enthused about a product, they’re not going to sell it, which means home owners aren’t going to get to know about it either. This is almost what it was like during the lowest depths of the old conservatory market. The industry was seriously disillusioned with the whole sector and there was very little energy and commitment to the cause.
But, along came this whole new suite of products which transformed the conservatory market into the glazed extension market and suddenly there was something for installers to get excited about once again. Here they had products which showed them a new way forward. Which showed them that the sector that once boomed could boom again. Products which home owners could get excited about and perhaps could earn the installer a much required healthy profit margin.
These were now products worth selling. No more white plastic boxes that got too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. No more roofs that sounded like bullets when it was spitting outside. Finally products that were deserving of the term “glazed extension”.
Naturally, the higher-end nature of these new products means their prices in comparison to the now defunct conservatory is going to be higher. Quite a bit in some cases. But crucially, these products can command the prices they are being offered at.
For example, we have a 5m by 3m Black Loggia on our showsite. Once we have given the product a thorough demonstration with the home owner, we give them a guide price of at least £20k, depending on how they would like us to finish it and the specs they choose, so it could go north of that. Very rarely do people turn away at that. They can see the quality their money is buying. To that end, we are now winning higher and higher contract values, the ones that would have been unreachable without these new products.
The worst thing that we could do as an industry would be to turn glazed extensions into a value product, kind of how the bi-fold market is now becoming consumed in a race to the bottom. We have to maintain the quality of glazed extensions so we can make sure installers and fabricators of the products can make good margins. Home owners already seem happy to pay prices higher than those of normal conservatories, so why make this a race to the bottom in this market?
This new market has legs, serious legs. Not only is there a new refurbishment market with around three million old conservatories in desperate need of updating, but there is around 30+ million homes across the UK which could still be installed with a brand new glazed extension.
I think perhaps the industry lost sight of the new installation market. A mixture of low install rate and mediocre products forced us to look at the refurb market rather than go after the new business. But that has all changed and every single property is open for installation.
No matter what happens to the UK economy in the coming years, Brexit, or any other external factor, the glazed extension market has found a new lease of life, and installation companies who tap into this new potential could find it becoming a very profitable line of work.