We’re not just approaching the end of a year, but we’re approaching the end of a decade. Its been quite a decade too. Upheaval around the world as it continued to pick up the pieces from the Great Recession. We saw a number of devastating natural disasters. We have seen major political upheaval here in the UK, US and around the world. Its been a ten year period we will all never forget.
More positively though, there have been some companies who have really left their mark in the 2010’s in the UK fenestration industry. So as we’re nearing the end of the year and approaching a marquee moment in the calendar, I want to give you my thoughts on the top ten fenestration companies of the decade.
Companies on this list are included for a combination of factors i.e. impact on the industry, environmental efforts, product revolution etc.
Although numbered 1-10, this is not a ranking, merely a randomised list.
1. Brisant Secure
Have we ever known a cylinder company make such a massive and almost immediate impact in the window industry? I’d argue not. The problem of lock snapping has been around for a while, as have anti-snap cylinders. There are many varieties with many ratings.
Then along came Brisant Secure, run by Steve Stewart and Nick Dutton. With highly successful backgrounds and an almost unmatched level of expertise in marketing, they began to change the cylinder market with their Ultion cylinder. Founded in 2011, they began to make waves in the locksmith sector. It was their Ultion cylinder which quickly became their standout product, with locksmiths very quickly coming on board with Brisant.
It wasn’t long before Ultion found it’s way out of the locksmith sector and into the window and door industry. The takeup was phenomenal. Installers and fabricators all over the sector rapidly coming on board. Their success has been a mix of both very good product with slick and to-the-point marketing. Crucially, they have created marketing tools that locksmiths and installers are easily able to use themselves, such as pre-made webpages, videos, written literature etc. All of it very good, as you’d expect with a background like Nick’s.
Will we ever see a lock company make such a profound impact again? Not for a long time. Oh, and they have a rather funky SMART lock now too…
There were phones before the iPhone. There were composite doors before Solidor. But like any good company does, they take a product that already exists and makes it better.
Solidor (as far as I know) were the first to create a solid hardwood core composite door. Up until then it was foam all the way, by various suppliers. But by creating a solid hardwood option, it gave installers and indeed home owners a choice which calmed concerns about security and strength. Not only that, they created one of the widest colour ranges available from stock, partnered with wide choice on hardware and door designs. This is one of the reasons they are on this list.
You have to give a special mention to Door-Stop at this point. They were on the scene at the start of the composite door revolution and really did offer slick marketing and product choice, something which was lacking at the time elsewhere. However, Solidor are on this list for another reason, and that is their online lead generation.
I have never seen anything else that comes close to it. They have created a door designer, geared up as a lead generator, that home owners have tuned into like nothing else. Installers can embed it on their website, so are able to generate leads that way as well. Installers can price doors in less than a minute, letting installers get quotes out to customers in minutes. Their methods have since been copied by others, but Solidor were first to create this sort of thing and have totally transformed how installers sell composite doors.
They’re one of the largest companies by revenues in UK fenestration. An achievement in itself. But thats not the reason why they’re on this list. They’re on this list because they were one of the first systems companies in the UK to take recycling of PVCu and sustainability seriously.
They have built a major facility in Derby and have another in Yorkshire. They now recycle a staggering 40,000 frames per week. It means they have kept millions of frames out of landfill this year. They have acquired specialist recycling companies like Europlas to help create a recycling network.
As a company, they were one of the first to understand the importance of recycling to the industry, and others have since followed suit. To be clear, they’re not on their own in building major recycling capacity, other systems companies are on this list for similar reasons. But they are one of the few companies genuinely driving change in the sector and have been for the past ten years, and for that reason they are on this list.
Timber-alternative windows are its own mini-market within UK fenestration now, and continues to grow every year. One of the first companies to really set that trend alight was Evolution.
Founded in 2004, they really went through the gears in the 2010’s by offering a PVCu product that provided an option to home owners and installers that offered genuine timber aesthetics where previous versions of PVCu didn’t come close. Their Storm range of windows, and later Storm 2 was a close as you were going to get to timber, without actually going for timber itself. It set off what we know as the timber-alternative sector, although makers of PVCu vertical sliders will argue strongly that they were there first! The counter would be that Evolution was the first casement timber-alternative option.
The industry has since followed suit, and you have to give a special mention to Residence Collection, which was founded in 2011. If Evolution was the first to come up with the idea and product, Residence Collection were the first to bring it to the mass market, and specialised in flush casements, which just about every other systems company now has.
The difference with the Evolution model is that they kept their manufacturing in-house, and were very specific with the installers they chose to supply to. People have their own opinions on that. But there is no doubting that we simply would not have the casement timber-alternative market we have today without these guys.
5. FIT Show
When Glassex was no more, it left a hole at the centre of a multi-billion pound industry. This is where the FIT Show stepped in. Founded in 2011, they embarked on a journey to provide the fenestration industry with a show to not just replace Glassex, but offer an exhibition different than before.
They began at the Telford Internation Centre, where the industry would take over the entire facility and make it it’s own. They had their first show in April 2013 and was a roaring success. There were some teething problems, as you would expect, but each show after ironed those problems out and the positive feedback only grew.
Eventually, the outgrew the Telford location, although many still say they loved the intimate nature of the venue, and are now based at the NEC in Birmingham. It has become a marquee date in the fenestration industry calendar, the biggest. Companies shape their product announcements around the exhibition, they plan their marketing campaigns around it. Most of the sector’s new products are announced there.
There was a three year gap between the last Glassex and the first FIT Show. An industry worth nearly £5bn simply cannot go without its own trade show. This is why the FIT Show is on this list.
Their reasons for Deceuninck being on this list are various. Firstly, we need to recognise their commitment to recycling and sustainability. I was kindly shown around their superb PVCu recycling facility in Belgium earlier this year. There, they can process tens of thousands of tons of post-consumer PVCu, with plans to upgrade that to six figure amounts soon. They have been one of the big leaders in pushing the sustainability message, and have gone into great detail behind the scenes to understand the impacts our industry has on the environment.
Then there is colour. They have embraced the colour revolution openly and now stock one of the largest colour choices in the sector with 30 foils from stock. They have been quick to act and have seen that vision rewarded.
They have grown well in the past decade to earn their place among the top systems in the country. They have a brilliant flush casement window as well as French doors, their colour choice is as wide as anything else out there, and their commitment to recycling and sustainability means they have the whole package.
7. Residence Collection
I mentioned them alongside Evolution earlier in the post, but Residence Collection deserve their own spot on this list for two reasons. Firstly, for bringing timber-alternative casements to the mass market. Secondly, for establishing the flush sash window firmly in the sector.
They chose a different route from Evolution, choosing to let fabricators make their product and giving access to thousands of installers. As a result, the company grew massively, and at the same time embedded the flush casement window. What we saw from there was a rapid adoption of the flush window from all other major systems companies and it has now become a staple within the product portfolios of a great majority of fabricators and systems companies. I have no doubt that without Residence this simply would not have happened.
As it is, flush is a huge growth area and has changed the PVCu window industry permanently.
Along with Eurocell and Deceuninck, VEKA are now one of the major PVCu recycling companies not just in the UK but in Europe too. They already have a well established product portfolio, and is regarded as one of the leading if not top systems houses. But its their commitment to recycling which is the reason for their inclusion on this list.
They began in 2007, but accelerated their efforts during the 2010’s as they recognised the impending need for PVCu to do more to become much more sustainable. They have invested in a £8m major facility in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, which will convert virgin and post-consumer PVCu into resuable polymer. They actually began recycling in Europe back in 1993 in Germany and opened up another plant in France. Along with the Northamptonshire plant, they are able to recycle 100,000 tons of post-consumer waste. A huge number, ensuring millions of frames don’t end up in the ground.
This year, VEKA have recycled an enormous 4.2 million frames, which is 80,000 per week. Amazing numbers!
They have lead the way for a while on this, and were recently voted as Recycling Company of the Year at the 2019 National Fenestration Awards.
9. Morley Glass
There have been many innovations within the world of windows, and integral blinds have been one of them. There are differing brands of course, from different IGU companies. But Morley Glass, through their hard work, reliable quality and service, have become the UK’s biggest manufacturer of integral blinds.
They were formed in 1998 as an IGU company, but quickly understood the benefits and advantages of the integral blind product when it became available. Over time the company has grown exponentially, where integral blinds have become the core of the business, making thousands per week and delivering across the UK. There are other companies offering other blinds, that has to be noted, but Morley Glass have been included on this list because I believe that without the success of this company, integral blinds would not be anywhere near as established as they are today.
I also want to mention the immense amount of local charity work the company does. There is charity work and there is charity work, and Morley Glass are involved with so many local causes and schemes that this alone would warrant them being on this list. They are firm believers in supporting the local area, something which business of all kinds should be involved with.
10. GQA Qualifications
The industry has undergone a huge qualifications revolution in the last decade, thanks to changes in regulations and how installers are allowed to operate. As it is, installers must have qualified fitters on site when installing windows and doors. GQA Qualifications are on this list because quite simply, without them, qualifications would not exist in the way they do now without them. If your fitters have qualifications, there is a high probability that you’ll see the big green Q of GQA on there.
They’re on this list for another reason though, and that is their support for training in this industry. They, as well as they rest of the sector, understand fully that we’re in the midst of a skills crisis, and that if the industry is to function properly, we need skilled people on site carrying out the work. They have been huge supporters of that effort, being a driving force recently behind the Building our Skills campaign.
Notable mentions: of course these are just my own opinion, and there are some great companies who have done some great things and have no doubt had impacts on the industry. Some of the notable mentions would be REAL Aluminium and how they have transformed the way aluminium is perceived and sold. Ultraframe, for their rapidly expanded portfolion of products, including their solid roofs, VR marketing, cornice and internal pelment. The National Fenestration Awards for creating the largest, independent and all-inclusive awards platform in the industry.
Right now there are some companies starting to make big waves in fenestration, who will no doubt leave their mark on the industry over the next ten years. As always, all thoughts an opinions on this article are welcome via the comments section below.
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