I think you can actually feel the pain in the industry right now. Rising material costs. Rising wage costs. Ongoing service and quality issues. Highly stringent consumer protection laws. Brand new GDPR data laws. These are just a few of the pains in the sector happening right now, and I think you can look to the industry’s biggest installers as a prime example of the struggles.

Industry in evolution

Far too much product choice. Over-expectant and unreasonable customers. Pricing pressures. Lack of available skilled workers. All issues we are facing in our own company right now. For a SME like ourselves, these are issues that are just about manageable. For the very biggest, and therefore less agile, such as Everest and Safestyle, these are immense headaches.

We have seen the share price of Safestyle fall to less than a tenth of it’s high in recent weeks. We have seen newcomers Safeglaze eat into the market share of Safestyle in recent months, and the two are now in court. Also, the mood music around Safeglaze isn’t great at the moment.

To add to the feeling of crisis, a recent Financial Times article features comments from Jon Moulton, the chap who runs Better Capital who owns Everest, says that the plans put into place to turn things around at the company in 2017 were basically not working. He says they were “badly implemented”. The fuel on the fire is that they have had to write their assets down from £38m to just £20m, and are having to invest a further £5m on boosting working capital.

Read the full Financial Times article here

I haven’t heard much about Anglian in the past few months, but my guess is if it’s this bad for the likes of Safestyle and Everest, it’s unlikely that in this climate they will be booming.

In the past few weeks we have also seen Safestyle and another installation firm fined to using high-pressure sales methods deemed illegal by the courts. Personally, I’m hoping that this serves as a warning to all companies that continue to use hard-sell methods that they will at some point be caught and fined.

On a wider scale though, I think all of the above are signs that the window industry is going through a rather painful evolution. Home owner knowledge of products and procedure has never been higher thanks to the internet. Prices are on a steep incline. Product portfolios are very rapidly changing. Installers are facing a future of very low pools of skilled workers combined with a battle to become more productive. Frankly, it’s a nightmare, and how I see it right now, we could be about to lose quite a few companies, some of them very well known.

DGB Tech

Coming out of the other side

If the window industry is going through some sort of natural restructuring, it could be a bit of a bloody one. All the aforementioned problems I have talked about have all landed on our laps at one. And all at a time when Brexit is only months away, business confidence is shaky and consumer spending isn’t growing.

I also think that the sector is actually about to go through a bit of an ethical change of direction. There are still many companies who operate high-pressure sales methods. However, with the two recent high-profile court cases, and Everest owners admittance that they need to rid the company of high-pressure sales tactics, this I think is the first clear sign for a very long time that the industry is finally facing up to the fact that it cannot continue the way it is.

The business models of the very biggest appear from an outside perspective to be highly incompatible with today’s purchasing methods of home owners. Some very key figures at the nationals are now (in very businessesy speak) openly admitting that things really do now have to change. I’d say that this was last chance saloon, but I think we’re already passed that moment in time.

Once we come out of the other side of this adjustment, evolution, correction, or whatever you want to call it, I think out industry could look very different. I think the chances are very high that at least one, if not more, of the nationals will not be here at least in their current forms in the medium term. I think the stories in the MSM of hard-selling will rise, forcing extra pressure on certain companies.

Strap yourself in. It could be about to get pretty volatile.

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