In my time during paternity leave, between the naps and the nappies, I have had a chance to sit back and ponder our industry in a wider context. Think about it in different ways.
As I sat there, with a little one on my chest, it dawned on me that we have been viewing our own products in the wrong light for a very long time. Many of us are going down the luxury and high-end route, which is the right thing to do. But I believe we have to see our products in a much more integrated part of life.
I see windows and doors as lifestyle products.
A part of life
For as long as I have worked in the fenestration sector, our own attitude to our products has been rather industrial, without finesse in some cases, and plainly basic in some quarters. But for me, the reality is far different than that.
Just look at the progress our sector has made in turning what has traditionally been a pretty uninspiring purchase for a client into one that is sexy, desirable and aspirational. Composite doors provided a much-needed step in the evolution of entrance doors. Aluminium bi-folding doors are something nearly every homeowner wants. Flush windows are roaring right now, making homes look very different to previous generations of windows. Unlimited colour options have broken the White barrier. We even have companies like Festa and Spitfire commanding five-figure sums for their stunning pivot entrance doors.
The one thing that links all of the above is that all of those products are highly customisable and bespoke to the client’s needs. A homeowner can specify in exacting detail how they want their new windows and doors to look and feel, to suit a theme, a purpose and a function. Just to add context, this is the definition of lifestyle products: Lifestyle products are goods that are perceived as an expression of an individual’s style, preferences, values, way of life and social status. The finest details of what we sell can all now be determined by the client. Frame shape, colour, glass specification, hardware type and colour, even down to the type of silicone that is used externally.
Windows and doors are not just windows and doors. They aren’t just bits of PVCu, aluminium and timber shoved into a hole in a wall to keep the rain out. We have come a long way from the White Gold days of selling crap White plastic windows at ludicrous prices, thank god. In many areas, we are a much more polished affair in terms of our product offering and choice. It’s time we recognised that what we sell is a far more precious and aspirational purchase and apply the right marketing approach to embellish it further.
Lifestyle product margins
Lifestyle products are around us in every sphere. No doubt you reading this right now buy right into that model. It could be boutique coffee, more expensive than the rest but I bet it tastes damned better. Cars are an obvious one. Luxury watches, designer clothes, high-end restaurants. I can guarantee we all buy into at least one of these, if not more.
Why do we do that? Because we like the idea of buying into what we perceive as a better brand and a better product, and we feel good about it. We see them as fitting into our lives, as expressions of ourselves, and we’re prepared to spend significantly more money on them as a matter of pride. In case you haven’t noticed, windows and doors are approaching that realm.
Entrance doors are especially becoming a status symbol for homeowners. Even in these times of spiralling costs, there is most certainly a level of pride and boastfulness when it comes to buying a new front door for the rest of the street to see. That is why I believe you’re going to see a whole new high-end market in entrance doors explode onto the scene imminently.
The best thing about all of this? The profit margins are far higher than on standard offerings. Flush windows, pivot doors, aluminium bi-folds, bespoke sprayed windows and doors all carry better margins than the basic window and door products. People who really want them are prepared to pay more to have them. That is why, in this time of toughening economic circumstances, going after the higher-end market is a very good idea right now.
People with money like to spend it. It really is as simple as that. They are the ones that buy heavily into the lifestyle and its associated products. Windows and doors are part of that bracket now and it’s going to bring a whole world of opportunities with it. Social media will be a big driver of content around our industry in the next few years and I expect it to generate plenty of new business through people seeking out the products they see in well-viewed videos.
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