This was an article that was supposed to be published a few days ago, closer to the Everest pre-pack administration. Given the events of the last few days, it has been rewritten.

Sash UK. Everest. Customade. Three in a row, three big companies that have either ceased to trade or have gone into administration. There are more. You only need to look on The Gazette to see that in the last few weeks there have been a high number of fenestration companies hit the rocks. Some you’ll know, some you won’t. And I’m in no doubt there will be others along the way.

These have not been a good few weeks for the industry, and that is an understatement. Have we reached a tipping point? Or will things return to how they have always been done?

Handling a crisis

Last week I gave praise to VEKA, who in a statement announced that it was going to have to restructure the business due to customers of their own going into administration and general business levels not hitting pre-COVID levels. They were honest and clear about the action they would have to take, and that it meant good people were going to lose their jobs because of it. Honest, clear, quick and to the point. No prolonged speculation or rumour to exacerbate the situation.

When it came to Everest, I don’t think many were that surprised to see the end result. They had been in trouble for a long time, COVID only accelerated the process up. You could track what was going on at the business because they were obliged to give updates on their website (Better Capital) as their fund which owned Everest was traded on the markets. It was signposted what was going to happen and when. We knew it was likely to fall into a pre-pack administration, which it did, and although not as obvious, the fallout from that has been fairly untidy too. Debts remain unpaid, staff have lost their jobs, and I am getting private emails from those connected to the new company with a wide range of complaints and general anger at the whole thing. Not as much vocal anger from the industry as I thought.

For those who I have spoken to on the phone over the past few weeks, they will know that my firm belief was that a statement should have been issued when the rumour mill began to circulate about Customade. I appreciate that in normal circumstances a business trying to sell itself or find new financing will rarely talk about it in public and deny everything. However, these are not normal times and the amount of speculation and rumour that built up over time was way more than normal, to the point where another trade media outlet named the business outright as being up for sale. It was at that point some clarification should have been issued. Things only got worse from then from that point on.

What has erupted over the weekend and into this week on social media is nothing short of staggering. Pre-pack administration announcements never go down all that well. Whilst the press releases that are announced focus on the saving of some jobs at the new business, it doesn’t stop all job losses and it can’t hide the fact that suppliers are left to take the hit when it comes to debt. It always winds people up. But the reaction online has become so personal, so constant, I have never seen something like in our sector before. At least whilst I have been in it. A mix of new accounts and established heads of business that usually sit back and watch this unfold have weighed in with their comments on the story.

The end result is what always happens. Suppliers won’t get paid, there is no change in the corporate structure, leaving a trail of mess. This is not how this should have been handled, and for companies who find themselves at risk of going under, this is a lesson to be learned about transparency. Transparency to staff, customers and suppliers. This industry talks, very little remains a secret. Be honest, be clear and you’ll earn far more respect that way.

Explore more of DGB…

DGB Events

Unprecedented reaction

I’m sorry for using the u-word, I know we’re all tired of hearing that to describe the pandemic. However, the reaction from VEKA today on Twitter was indeed unprecedented:

As far as my memory stretches I cannot recall a time where a major supplier has publicly backed out of supplying a customer like this. The vitriol over the weekend will have heaped pressure on those suppliers connected to the business, and VEKA, after announcing their own restructuring plans not so long ago has taken a clear line with this situation also, which gained support from followers on Twitter.

Whether others will follow will remain to be seen. There will however be a high level of scrutiny on those seen to be supplying the group.

As the day progressed, reaction from installers began to find their way on to social media:

This hasn’t gone down well. Installers already worried about their supply will feel further pressured at a time where a sense of calm needs to descend. Given the amount of ill will out there, a sympathetic move to back current warranties from the old business would have been a welcome gesture to installers. Instead, they face a choice between feeling forced to buy from the new business at the same levels to keep their warranties or to look for alternatives and wave them goodbye.

I will say this, during this crisis, from the conversations I have had with a variety of people across the industry there remains much respect and love for the brands within the group. That is what has struck me. Many told me that as individual businesses they could forge their own prosperous path.

Our industry is now at a crossroads. This feels like a tipping point. Do others take the stance that VEKA took today and refuse to supply those that choose to write off debt and responsibilities? Does this simply go away when the social media attention dies down and we continue as an industry to enable the same actions? This feels different to me. A moment of potential change. Could lines in the sand now be drawn when it comes to pre-packs and debt? If suppliers refused to deal with companies who act in the way we have seen a number of our sector’s businesses have in recent weeks it may well change attitudes towards this way of conducting business.

For those interested in my personal point of view, this is where I, and the other projects (National Fenestration Awards & Fenestration Digital) I am involved stands. We were aware of the situation surrounding the company when it first emerged prior to the pandemic. We had discussions about which course of action to take when the proposition of advertising came up. Knowing what we knew we felt it was not in the best interest of fenestration suppliers or installers to run the group’s PR or adverts. The advertising deal on DGB with REAL Aluminium was arranged before the troubles at the company were known. However, given the current arrangements with suppliers and indeed installers, we as a group (DGB, NFAs and Lee Clarke at Fenestration Digital) are unable to work with the new company until a satisfactory agreement has been met with both suppliers and installers. At which point we will be happy to help the group move forwards.

Ending on a personal note, Lee and myself want to wish everyone affected in all capacities the very best for the future and that they find their new fenestration career path as soon as possible.

To get weekly updates from DGB sent to your inbox, enter your email address in the space below to subscribe:

By subscribing you agree to DGB sending you weekly email updates with all published content on this website, as well as any major updates to the services being run on DGB. Your data is never passed on to third parties or used by external advertising companies. Your data is protected and stored on secure servers run by Fivenines UK Ltd.