The fenestration industry continues to boom as the supply chain grapples with huge demand from homeowners seeking to spend their disposable income on improving their homes and gardens after spending most of the year using them more than they thought they would.

Whilst this busy period appears to be benefitting most of us, it seems the good times are not present in every nook and cranny. This is evident if you were to take a quick look at The Gazette and notice a flurry of fenestration related businesses being closed. One particular one that caught my eye was Howarth Timber (Windows & Doors) Limited.

In liquidation

This particular closure took my eye for a couple of reasons. It has happened in the last couple of weeks or so, but more that the business had been going for 47 years. In the world of windows and doors that’s dog years and would make it a very old business.

For clarity, Howarth Timber continues to trade as normal. The group is 175 years old and has a heavy presence in the north of England.

This is the message on the Howarth Timber Windows & Doors website:

Sadly, as explained on the holding page, no more remedial work or warranty work will be carried out, meaning customers will be left with void guarantees. There is no other messaging on the main Howarth Timber website with regards to this announcement. It’s not clear what effect this will have on jobs at the company, or whether they will be absorbed into the wider business.

Howarth Timber do supply an extensive range of PVCu products, including windows, doors, bi-folding doors, conservatories, orangeries, fully reversible windows and patio doors.

It’s sad to see any business forced to close its doors, especially one that has been in business for so long.

One and done?

There’s no doubt that the medium term continues to look uncertain. Companies in this sector whilst being busier than they could have dreamed of will also be looking at ways to reduce cost and streamline the business where they can. Even though the outlook I think remains buoyant and the first half of 2021 could see business activity as high as it has been recently, many will be using the pandemic as an opportunity to look at how to improve where it’s needed.

Could we see more companies in this sector go to the wall? We could. Even in during booming periods, not every single business is immune to unfortunate circumstances. The same goes for right now. But I don’t see a wave of collapses coming like we did during the first wave of the pandemic. The difference this time around, even if there is a full second national lockdown in the style of Wales, our industry could well be allowed to stay open whilst other sectors have to close. And even if we were told we had to close, installers are sitting on months and months of pre-scheduled work. This is a much stronger position than they would have been in at the start of the year.

The pandemic has exposed certain companies who were already looking shaky, and its certainly possible we could see one or two more high-profile companies go in the next 6-12 months. But I think that is going to be due to pandemic pushing them over the line rather than being the sole cause of any closure.

As I have explored in previous posts, I think the first half of next year could see demand at similar levels we have experienced now. Even if there is a messy Brexit at the end of the year, I think the mood of the UK is one of acceptance regardless of how you voted and that whatever happens, life and business will continue to function after the fact. I think the one thing that could change things for our industry is when its tangibly safe to travel abroad. Millions of Brits have had foreign holidays postponed or cancelled. Whilst many have used their refunds to pay for home improvements, I can almost guarantee that if the all-clear is given, a successful vaccine is available in the second half of 2021 to a large portion of the population, then flights to the Med and Caribbean are going to take centre stage in front of that replacement front door!

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