We have an irritating habit in our industry of taking something that is good, of high quality and makes a decent profit margin, and then firing the starting gun in a race to the bottom in a bid to undercut everybody else to make a sale. That is exactly what is going on right now in the bi-fold doors market and it’s the single biggest threat to that particular part of the industry right now.

Cannibalising the market

It wasn’t so long ago that the bi-fold doors market was seen as one of the few new sectors that could help restore a decent profit margin to an industry that had been hit hard by a recession and lack of diversification.

Then, TV programmes, social media, architecture publications began to show off to aspiring home owners how amazing bi-fold doors could be. So the industry saw a strong rise in demand for the product, even if we didn’t have the weather and climate to really warrant them.

Aluminium and PVCu were the main materials of choice, although it is widely accepted that aluminium is king in the bi-fold doors market at present. And for a while, fabricators would sell these to installers at a reasonable price, making a reasonable margin. And installers would then sell on to the customer again for a decent price and a decent margin. Home owners were happy. Installers were happy. Fabricators were happy.

Then, as our industry always does, it gets carried away with itself, everyone gets on the bi-fold doors bandwagon and everyone starts to try and undercut each other in a bid to win the new business on offer. And what we have now is an industry that is fighting tooth and nail to be the cheapest possible option, throwing away profit margin in the meantime.

A lesson never learned

It will not be long before we start to see some bi-fold door manufacturers go to the wall. I get emails on a regular basis from bi-fold door companies offering their products for less and less each time. I remember one company advertising their product for as little as a couple of hundred quid per sash, glazed. They cannot be making much profit, if any, at those prices.

And this is a lesson that is never learned by our industry. It continues to happen, and businesses go bust because of it, and then the cycle happens again, almost as if the last time never happened.

We produce a good quality product, sell it at a decent price, make a decent profit, then every man and his dog wants to make a quick quid out of the gold rush then leaves the market in tatters, with only a few decent companies remaining.

It’s not just bi-fold doors this is happening to. You only need to look at the solid roof market and see how many companies now offer a solid roof. There are most certainly varying qualities, and some of the swings between prices that I have seen are almost comedic. Bandwagon quality and bandwagon prices. Only serving to help lower the bar for everyone else.

And the saddest thing about it, is that we will never learn. The stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap attitude will always be with us to spoil the party for everyone else.

I can see a scenario in a few years time where the bi-fold market falls into such a sorry state that a number of fabricators and installers decide to leave it simply because the trading conditions the market has created for itself means any decent profit can no longer be made on the product.

Sad, no?

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