That sounds an odd question. In the world of business, you never stop selling. It’s literally what you exist to do.
But as we all know, we are operating in extraordinary circumstances. And in the various conversations, I have every week with you find industry folk, the idea that we need to put a brake on the selling of windows and doors for a bit is one I am starting to hear a bit more often.
Given the extreme environment within UK fenestration, would a pause in sales be helpful right now?
Here’s another thing I am hearing more of, and that is how navigating lockdowns was easier than this period we’re in right now. That sounds bizarre but I can see the point people make when they say this.
During lockdown, no one was buying. Everyone was at home and we were all in the same boat. No one buying, no one making. Everyone planning. Now, we’re trading knowing full well that deliveries promised on a certain date probably won’t arrive, there are product shortages in every direction and communication is grinding to a halt. This makes for an incredibly high-pressure trading environment, which is causing huge amounts of stress and tension between clients and colleagues alike.
The fact is though, the supply chain is struggling, and it’s getting worse. Glass supplies are seriously crippled, especially toughened and laminated products, as well as tinted and decorative glass. We’re being warned about coloured profile shortages, hardware and polymer. Add to that transport costs going through the roof, international shipping has just gone insane, there’s an acute lack of labour and I have seen reports of one systems company slapping very high double-digit price increases on steel. All that combined makes for a supply chain that is close to being on its knees.
No one is operating smoothly. Nothing is guaranteed and by all accounts, it’s going to get worse towards the end of the year. Yet, knowing all of the above, we’re all continuing to sell our products across the supply chain, knowing full well that orders places may well not be fulfilled.
Is it time to pull an emergency brake? Fabricators I speak to are running on empty. Struggling to get product, deliveries in chaos, irate installers giving abuse down the phone. Do we need to start taking stock of where we are and stop selling for a period? Perhaps one month. Maybe two?
Steady, but visible car crash
Here is the thing I am worried about. And I am speaking in my capacity as an industry person as well as someone who operates an installations business. Installers keep selling in huge numbers, taking orders and then placing orders with their suppliers. Installers also know full well that the chances of getting what they ask for right now are nowhere near what they should be.
We’re all going around continuing to sell our goods in the knowledge that they might never arrive, in the worst case. This is only going to lead to further frustrations on the B2B side of this sector, as well as awkward and angry conversations with homeowners when they get told they’re going to be delayed time after time.
As we know, demand is way higher than supply can keep up with. The supply chain is being hit from all angles with a multitude of problems. Companies are unable to build up any kind of stock levels. As soon as something is made it is sold and straight out of the door. No reserves are being built up.
This is a car crash waiting to happen, and we can all see it. The question is, are we prepared to try something else which might make our lives easier in the long run?
It has been suggested to me recently that the sector really needs to close down for a month, maybe two, so that manufacturers can build up some level of stock and resilience. At this current rate, the supply chain is likely to continue breaking down.
So, let’s ponder on that idea for a moment. Christmas is coming up soon. We’re already in September. We close for a fortnight as an industry. Is there room to close a couple of weeks earlier? Can installers for this year only press pause and stop? Fitting doesn’t have to stop. Most should have plenty in stock. But sales could be held off for a few more weeks. This would give fabricators a bit more breathing room. Time to get deliveries of orders placed out of the door, and more time to build up stock levels in the background.
It was suggested to me that the industry could actually do with two solid months off. Whilst I understand the yearning for such a thing, the reality is that we won’t stop selling, even if it’s not the best thing for us right now.
Companies will always say yes to new sales, it’s in the blood of people. But whilst we do, we must be honest with our clients and explain that things are likely to be delayed, parts are going to be missing and prices are going to keep going up for months to come.
It’s less than 100 days to Christmas by the way!
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