A new year always brings a fresh chance to look at what opportunities there might be to exploit over the coming year. Within the world of fenestration, I see a plethora of open doors to make the most of. Despite predictions of a slowdown this year, I see a huge number of ways our sector can grow and create new streams of revenue.
This is Part 1 of a two-part mini-series exploring the array of opportunities our sector has in 2022. These could be areas in which to sell more products, increase revenue streams and profits, expand the reach of our sector within the public and ways to solve key problems such as the youth and skills gap.
1. Flush windows
The future of this industry is in flush windows. I really do believe that. At the other end of the vast new development of houses within which I live is a good 100 or so homes that have been fitted with woodgrain flush windows. They look totally different to all the other houses on the rest of the development and always catch my eye as I drive past them.
Flush windows, for me, have been one of the biggest evolutions in windows in the last decade and there is so much potential in the coming year to boost sales of the product. Even from my own experience, there is a growing number of homeowners coming to the showroom looking for flush windows. Those that are coming in not knowing what choices there are out there are gravitating more to flush windows. The very different look of a flush window, combined with timber-look joints really does set them apart from traditional casements.
I have found that after introducing flush windows to my own clients as another choice, more and more are choosing it, saying that other companies haven’t bothered to show them it. That’s such a waste of a good opportunity. Make 2022 the year you push flush and boost sales!
2. Integral blinds
I still love these. Indeed, I have some in my house already. Why drill holes in new window and door frames or reveals when you can save on the destruction and cleaning and have blinds inside the glass?
For me, there is potential for every order of new windows and doors to a house to have at least one integral blind included somewhere. It could be a Kitchen, where cooking can get external blinds dirty and ruin them. It could be in a Bathroom or rear door where privacy is needed. Either way, the USPs of integral blinds are too good to ignore and installers can add real additional value to each of their contracts with clients by upselling integral blinds where they can.
I don’t just mean PVCu recycling, although we’re pretty hot on that at the moment. I’m talking about upping the recycling of everything, where we can, up and down the supply chain.
That means taking glass to glass crushers like that of Morley Glass. Increasing the recycling of aluminium and steel windows. The same goes for timber windows and doors. Every installer, fabricator, systems company and business anywhere in between in our sector should be doing everything they can to ensure that everything they can recycle does indeed get recycled. There is a growing network of facilities across the country, both within fenestration and outside it, within which to process most, if not all, post-consumer waste.
In a post-COP26 UK, our sector, like everyone else, is going to be under the microscope and being scrutinised to ensure that we’re doing everything we can. So let’s show the public how committed we really are to become as sustainable as possible.
Plus, there is a huge economic advantage to increasing our sustainability. There are jobs in collections, recycling plants, maintenance, research, marketing and more. This is a win-win for everyone.
4. Aluminium bi-folding doors
Whilst there is a battle raging between sliders and bi-folds at the moment, with sliding patio doors making a strong comeback, I fully believe there is still plenty of growth in the bi-fold niche, specifically in the aluminium part of the market.
I sense a bit of a pandemic effect, where homeowners have reassessed their outdoor living spaces after spending so much more time at home. If you are lucky enough to have a decent garden to take advantage of, on those warm days and nights it’s very inviting to open up a whole room and welcome the outdoors in. I had a set installed last year not long after I had my garden landscaped and there is just something very grand about opening up a whole side of a house to the outdoors. It makes your garden and house feel bigger, and when you have people over for a party or BBQ is just adds to the occasion.
Aluminium bi-folds allow for slimmer sightlines and bigger leaf sizes. Who knows what type of summer we’re going to have, but for me, after re-learning the importance of outdoor space, bi-folding doors seem the perfect product in which to connect our homes and gardens together. 2022 could be a really good year for sales on that front.
5. Video content
Are you producing videos for your business? If not why not! Like it or not, video content is quickly becoming the primary driver of sales and marketing for companies across the entire economy. You only need to look at the types of videos you are seeing on social media when it comes to cars, holidays, food, tech and other sectors. Fenestration cannot afford to ignore the shift to video marketing.
Some are doing it. I have seen a few major fenestration manufacturers making good quality video content. But so many more are not and this is such a huge missed opportunity. Your next generation of customers are brought up on video and not getting into that melting pot is going to result in lost sales somewhere down the line.
Video content has several purposes, but all are marketing in a sense. You can use video to demonstrate case studies of your installations. Or use it to sell direct to clients. Perhaps use it to show what actually happens in a fenestration business behind the scenes. Whatever it is you use it for, just get started. Don’t worry about the first few vids being super-polished and perfect, just start. The more you do it the better the quality will become over time and creating video content will end up being second nature.
Or, pay someone to do it for you. Either way, do not ignore this in 2022.
6. Lanterns and flat glass roof lights
I still don’t think we have made the most of this gift of an opportunity. I wrote about this a few years ago when these were beginning to make a mark in the sector but I still think we are yet to realise the depth of this particular niche.
There are millions of existing flat roof extensions out there that would be perfect for a glass lantern roof or flat glass roof light and many homeowners still looking to upgrade their homes. It seems like an open goal to market these products in a much more aggressive fashion and get the attention of renovators. It’s easy to do. These products look great, they photograph well, are relatively affordable compared to other home improvement options out there and most can be turned around on quick lead times.
They’re simple to install, easy to finish off internally and externally and can command decent profit margins so long as they’re sold properly. We are going to be pushing lanterns and flat glass roof lights a lot more at our place this year. I will report back later on in the year on how we get on.
7. Garden rooms
This is a big one for me. Working from home will continue to remain a popular choice for many, giving people flexibility when it comes to work, spending more time at home and cutting down on commuting. So what does a person need if they have no home office but some outdoor space to spare? A garden room!
Demand for garden rooms began to spike in the early part of the pandemic as people sought to look for ways to professionalize their working habits at home. Since then the popularity of garden rooms has blown up, with a variety of companies across the sector bringing out dedicated products to meet that demand. With COVID still hanging around and many companies allowing their staff to work flexibly, the potential for garden rooms is huge.
And it doesn’t just have to be a solution for work. Many homeowners have invested in their gardens and entertainment spaces. Garden rooms can be used as bars, lounging areas, even home cinemas and dining spaces. I have already seen some creative uses for garden rooms and it would be wise for the fenestration sector in 2022 to make the most of this great opportunity.
8. Smart door tech
The world is becoming increasingly connected, with status updates and smart functionality from our phones on all sorts of products, including fridges, cars, TV’s, CCTV, doorbells and yes, windows and doors. With products like Ultion SMART, Kubu, Q-Smart from VBH and others, the fenestration sector is increasingly becoming digitised and slotting slowly into the internet of things.
That trend is not going to reverse. Indeed, I can see 2022 being a great year where that pace of change actually increases. The public are growing increasingly used to products around them being smart and able to interact with them via phones and devices, it makes sense for window and doors to fit into that picture more broadly.
Not everyone will get on board with it. Some clients will still prefer the use of a key and their hands. But there is a growing percentage of the population growing up with smart tech all around them and I think it would be negligent to not make the most of this.
9. Solving the skills crisis
This is the perennial problem that never goes away and only seems to get worse. The last 18 months have exposed how short we really all are when it comes to staffing levels amid insane demand. If we are to do anything in 2022 let’s actually put words into action and try to make some progress in solving the skills crisis.
It makes plain sense to. We all remember how stressful and traumatic 2021 was in terms of working in fenestration. It was bloody hard work. Imagine how much easier it would have been if we all could have recruited a few extra pairs of hands to spread the workload. Unfortunately, we don’t even have a talent pond to pick from when it comes to available labour, and that simply has to change.
2022 is going to be very tough if we cannot bring more people on board to make everyone’s lives a lot easier. 2022 is also a great opportunity to turn the tide on the skills gap. Rates of pay are going up, especially in the labour force. This is the year of glass, which will bring additional coverage of the glass sector. There are apprenticeship schemes available to take advantage of. If we take a look at the state of the sector now, with full order books, good money to be made and most companies begging for workers, this is just about the best set of circumstances we can get in terms of recruitment. We just have to actually get it done.
10. Improve mental health provisions
One of the major lessons from 2021 was how important mental health was to us all. Last year took an absolute toll on all of us. In reality, we all did far too much for far too long and we did a lot of self-inflicted damage to our mental health. Me included.
We can take the lessons of 2021 and for 2022 improve our awareness of the importance of mental health, and businesses in our sector can do more to help protect and nurture their staff and employees. This isn’t something that is nice to do, it’s something we have to do. Like physical health, if we do not have our mental health then we have nothing.
Let 2022 be the year we make a genuine leap forward on mental health in fenestration, which would be good for everyone and the prosperity of the sector overall.
The use of colour has and always will be, a great differentiator between those plodding along in our industry and those who are looking to offer their customers something extra.
Whether that is fabricators offering colour services to their installers via companies like Kolorseal, or installers offering bespoke colour options on their windows and doors to homeowners. Colour is perhaps the strongest possible tool in terms of getting a person emotionally involved with a purchase of windows and doors as it’s one of the biggest overall design aspects of the product.
What is also clear is that demand for colour and more colour options is only growing. I still see huge growth potential in colour and the ability to use colour to win new sales over your competition. 2022, whether we have the same challenges we had in 2021, will still see colour as a fantastic opportunity for expansion.
This is the first of two feature posts that are going to explore 22 great opportunities in the fenestration sector in 2022. Start the debate in the comments section below! Part 2 will be live on the site next week.
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