In a sure sign that the outlook in UK fenestration has changed once again, many will have noticed that marketing emails from suppliers and fabricators are flooding back into inboxes.
This is a clear shift in approach from the last couple of years and is another indicator that fortunes are changing.
Resist the race to the bottom
In the past couple of weeks, we have had marketing emails on composite doors, flush windows, aluminium bi-folding doors and more. During the most of 2020 and 2021, we rarely had any emails from any suppliers touting new business as the industry was entirely flooded with more businesses than it could cope with.
The lay of the land now is very different. Rampant inflation has pushed up retail prices for homeowners by 40-60% or more in very quick time. Inflation generally is out of control and there is a cost of living crisis that is threatening to cause further economic hardship. We are already seeing warning articles from various companies in the supply chain warning that things are not the same as last year and that there is a tougher time ahead. Laying the groundwork and dampening expectations.
Now that lead times in many areas are returning to something we remember as normal, and sales funnels aren’t as full as they have been, companies are now switching back to trying to win new business. Remember when we were all amazed when companies weren’t touting for new business? What a weird time to be in business that was.
Sadly, we do not appear to be learning from previous mistakes. In the past, I have written about how our industry made problems for itself by using price as the main driver for sales rather than quality and service. Judging by the approach in the sales emails I have seen, we appear to be on the road to making the same mistakes.
We have had emails for aluminium bi-folding doors at a few hundred quid per leaf glazed, composite doors delivered inside a week and offers on flush windows. First, considering the rising cost of aluminium, the very idea of selling aluminium bi-folds so cheap is bizarre. Second, no one needs composite doors in a week. Many installers still have many weeks, maybe a few months of work ahead of them. Good installers shouldn’t need something that quick. Third, flush windows are meant to be a premium upgrade to standard casements. Why cheapen the image by driving sales on price?
Considering the backdrop our industry is operating in, and the constant rate of increases across the board, it seems incredibly short-sighted and most certainly risky to be taking a price-based approach to winning new business when there is a much more obvious road to travel.
Now is the time to focus on quality
The stack-em high and sell-em cheap approach needs to be consigned to history in our industry. That was the White Gold days type of selling when PVCu was becoming the dominant material. But it does not work in a modern economy with a much more informed client base and with prices as high as they are. Margins are being squeezed in all areas and homeowners are being asked to pay more and more each month for new windows and doors. Undercutting competition is the high-speed train to bustville.
Just about everyone is putting prices up. So very much like energy suppliers, there is little reason to move suppliers in our industry due to price. There is a level playing field of sorts there. So where do you go to fight and win new business? It all comes down to quality and service.
Installers will remember during the height of supply chain pressures in 2020 and 2021 who served them well and who didn’t. Those who came through that period relatively unscathed, where service levels remained high, stand in good stead to win new business from those installers who are unhappy with their current suppliers.
Against that particular backdrop, fabricators and other suppliers ought to be focussing on winning new business on the basis of quality and service. Installers know that prices everywhere are going up and by everyone. What I have seen installers in need of more is better quality and service. Installers are still having a tough time running their companies, and require consistency of service and product quality to be able to make their own jobs as simple as possible.
I would urge suppliers to think carefully about the needs of installers at the moment. Don’t cut corners to fly products out of the door quicker than they need to be. I don’t think installers need a composite door in a week right now. Be reliable, be fair on price, produce at a high quality and I would suspect that most installers would be happy at that.
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