In the past few days I have seen a slew of adverts for bi-fold doors. All running on the same theme, undercutting. So many companies willing to shave their prices ever lower in the hope they steal business from someone else.
Today I saw someone advertising Sysneal’s WarmCore bi-folds at a smidge over £500 per leaf. I seriously hope that is un-glazed, because if it’s not, I’m not sure how much of a margin, if any, they’re making on that. For the industry;s leading hybrid bi-fold system, surely fabricators can command prices better than this?
Unfortunately, I do believe we are now in an un-reversable cycle of undercutting and discounting which will turn the bi-fold market from a once high-end part of our market to a bargain basement rabble, where the loudest voices to be heard are the ones throwing away their own margins.
On a path to ruin
So many have been saying it for so long now, including myself. We had a good thing in bi-folds, primarily in aluminium but in PVCu and timber too. Growth was solid and continues to be. But instead of it remaining a bastion of the better quality part of the market, we have allowed it to slip into a race to the bottom. Very much the road the PVCu market taken, and is now only really just starting to move away from that.
For so long our industry complains of margins being eroded, costs increasing etc, and yet, we see so many companies slashing prices on their bi-folds to bring the business in. Well, here’s some simple business basics: with rising manufacturing costs and slashing prices to installers, you’re not going to make any margins!
We just cannot seem to resist as an industry to undercut one another. It’s one of the same reasons businesses in our sector go to the wall. They cut and cut in the hopes they can bring the business in via volume, then when leaner times hit they have no reserves to draw upon and they very quickly close their doors. Piss poor short term tactics when we should always be looking to play the long game.
As industry costs go up, and a slight slow down in consumer spending gets us all looking a little bit closer about the health of our sector, those in the bi-folds market might soon start to regret throwing their margins away in the hopes of bringing in new short term business. It will be too late for some, they’re already on a path to ruin.
There is another issue to consider, and that is the quality of what we are producing. You cannot expect to cut costs from manufacturing and expect the same high quality end result each and every time. In order for a fabricator to make any money at all on each unit made, corners have to be cut. That means things like lower wages commanding lesser quality workers, less attention to detail in the factory, rushed manufacture etc. If you charge peanuts, don’t expect Rolls Royce quality bi-folds to come out the other end.
This is my worry. And all this translates to a poorer experience for the home owner. Right now, many will be buying bi-fold doors with the assumption that it’s going to be a high-end purchase. After all, all the homes on Grand Designs have them, and they all look so high quality and plush. Surely that’s what a home owner is going to get?
Well no, they’re not. There is a significant difference in quality between a set of bi-fold doors bought for £2000 versus those that cost £5000. And that perhaps is what we need to communicate as an industry better to home owners. I personally can see a two-tiered bi-fold door market taking form already. The split coming between companies prepared to savage their own market place for the sake of the “cheapest wins” argument, versus those who are prepared to hold their nerve and maintain a proper margin on their bi-folds and play the profitable long game. There comes a difference in quality between these two parts of the market.
Once again we look set to price out all the value and quality of a product that has previously worked very well, all through impatience, greed, short term thinking and just general bad business practice. We did it with PVCu decade ago and only now can we really say we’ve come out the other side and the quality has returned and most good fabricators are making good margins. The same will happen to bi-folds. The bottom will fall out of it, some companies will go to the wall, and it will take years for quality and sensible pricing to come back.
We never learn.
To get weekly updates from DGB sent to your inbox, enter your email address in the space below to subscribe: