The glazing industry is very good at hype and marketing. There’s a lot of good companies doing great work promoting brand new products to the rest of the sector. Many of these have been dubbed as “game changing”. But after attending this year’s FIT Show, very few lived up to such a high expectation.

That’s not to say any of the new products were rubbish. In fact the standard and quality of the new products were very high. Nothing, though, that has since shaken the market to it’s very foundations.

So I got to wondering, what was the last true game changing product our industry has seen, and where could the next one come from?

What is a game changing product?

For me, a game changing product in the glazing industry is one that completely changes the dynamic of the sector. A product that the whole industry suddenly wants to start selling. A product that dominates market share and pushed previously established products into the annuls of history. That is when the “game” is truly changed.

There are a few good examples of true industry-disrupting products. And the first one that comes to mind is PVCu windows.

Their introduction in the early 70’s to the UK residential market changed our sector that many at the time may not have realised. I wasn’t born then of course, but it’s not difficult to imagine the attitude first given towards the product. Purveyors of already established glazing materials will have been negative about it’s introduction, doubting it’s potential for fear of their own market share shrinking.

And wow how it shrunk. It did not take long for PVCu to knock aluminium and timber products to the back of the queue. To this day PVCu, now in it’s many forms and guises, makes up over 80% of the residential market. Although that number has been trimmed in recent years, it is still very much in front.

More recently, the composite door has been perhaps the biggest game changer since the introduction of PVCu. Before their introduction a little over a decade ago, the entrance door market was pretty damned stagnant. PVCu full panels, raised or inverted, White or Rosewood, were part of a very limited choice for home owners looking to replace their entrance doors. It was a product line that hadn’t really changed.

Then composite doors came along, with their colours other than White, Light Oak or Rosewood. Their traditional and contemporary door designs. Glass options that home owners could actually get excited about. Hardware that was nice to look at and better to operate. Suddenly full PVCu panel doors, a staple of the industry for decades, looked incredibly dated and dull. When we look at composite doors now, they are the fastest growing sub-sector in our market, responsible for a massive transformation of the entrance door market and are very likely the cause of quite a few PVCu panel businesses going bust.

Game changers now

I think that the last true game changing product we saw as an industry was the solid roof. It was born out of quite a low period in our sector, damaged badly by the Great Recession and suffering from a lack of innovation.

To come out of the clamber for something new to rejuvenate the sector was a whole host of glazed conservatory products. Some succeeded very well. Some did not. One product that did take off and has really turned the whole market on it’s head is the solid roof. And it’s a no brainer as to why.

Finally the home owner could have a roof on their glazed extension that could keep a room warm during the Winter and cool during the Summer. It wouldn’t sound like bullets on the roof when there was the slightest bit of rain, thanks to it being quieter. Glare when trying to read a book or entertain friends was no longer an issue. A solid roof could finally make an old conservatory or a new structure feel like a proper room connected to the rest of the house.

Now, every installer can install them. Every fabricator makes them – to varying degrees of quality. And home owners have really tuned in to the product and are the main drivers behind the growth of the market. It’s potential is huge, and will help push polycarbonate roofs into history in very much the same way composite doors did with PVCu full panel doors.

Near game changers

Not everything can be a game changer, but some products can come close. Take the bi-folding door as an example. There is no doubting that the performance of the product has been strong. Home owners want it in big numbers and most installers offer the product in a selection of materials.

But it hasn’t been able to achieve one very important milestone. It has not killed off completely it’s predecessors the sliding patio, which is now making a pretty strong come back, and French doors.

Unlike the introduction of PVCu or composite doors, they haven’t been able to bury it’s older product siblings in quite the same way. And that for me doesn’t make it a game changer. A very good product, and one that has made a lot of companies a lot of money. But it is firmly a part of the product landscape, rather than a product that has changed the territory completely.

Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have an idea as to the next truly game changing glazing industry product? If so, leave a comment via the box below or Facebook comments and be part of the debate!

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