That’s a bold statement I know. PVCu still makes up around the majority of the residential market. For example, there is around double the number of PVCu fabricators compared to aluminium fabricators.
I believe that the status quo is beginning to change. The pace of change within the sector is happening at a rapid pace, and against a backdrop of recession, the sector is very quickly seeking new ways to win new business.
With the PVCu market bearing the brunt of price increases and stagnant innovation, aluminium is best placed to dent the dominance of PVCu in the next decade.
Search for wealthier demographic
At the end of last year, it became clear to those that were not letting themselves get carried away by the previous 18 month’s worth of boom that things were changing. Inflation, which I had long been warning would become a problem, was becoming a problem. The cost of living was spiralling out of control and has since become worse. It was clear the boom was coming to a fairly robust end.
2022 has been a very different year from the two previous. Various industry reports show that leads are down and down hard. Price inflation is now skewing figures, with sales, in general, slowing down significantly. Away from social media, private conversations with some candour and honesty paint a rather tough picture for the coming 12-18 months.
However, one area that continues to perform strongly is aluminium. One company I spoke with last week is doing so well that they are investing vast sums into online and social media advertising to press home an advantage they already have. In fact, if you look at platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, they are littered with aluminium companies making the most of a huge surge in interest in aluminium entrance doors and internal doors, aluminium windows as well as bi-folding doors and sliders.
In my experience, it is also the wealthier bracket that is most interested in these products. For the duration of 2022, our own installations businesses have made a concerted effort to promote products like aluminium bi-folding doors, sliders, aluminium windows, as well as flush PVCu windows and Spitfire entrance doors. We could see the change happen at the end of 2021 and we knew this year would be very different to last year and that the types of people buying windows and doors over the previous 18 months would slam the brakes on spending. As it turns out we were right, and we were also right to focus more on the very high-end part of the market. The part of the market where the demographic of people is not swayed by a crisis or high inflation. This strategy is paying off. We are part way into a three-year plan and we’re ahead of where we need to be.
It’s worth noting that volumes and leads are down comfortably on last year at our place, but the types of contracts and the average contract value is significantly higher which is driving our growth. And almost all of that growth is via the products I have just mentioned. We are also constructing two brand new showrooms all dedicated to aluminium and bespoke aluminium entrance doors, such is our belief in the potential growth of this part of the market. It’s going to be a hell of an experience for the client to be able to sit down in these stunning spaces we’re building.
Aluminium will erode PVCu dominance
If you take a look at all the latest data, wherever you get your industry reports from, you’ll see how fast the growth in aluminium sales and fabrication is, and how sustained the decline is in PVCu fabrication.
Installers are flocking to aluminium to tap into a residential market that continues to explode in growth. Fabricators that were once solely PVCu people are now adding aluminium to their portfolios. I will make a bold claim here: within three years we shall see another PVCu systems company either acquire an aluminium systems company or develop their own aluminium systems to sit alongside their PVCu ones. Deceuninck is one of the first to have a fully-fledged aluminium system alongside their PVCu one. Eurocell has an aluminium bi-fold option, but it stops there.
As for fabricators adding aluminium to their wider product offering, this would be a prudent move in a market that continues to cool and with the raw number of fabricators in the UK declining. If you can keep your installer customers all in the same place, and reduce dual-sourcing as much as possible, you stand to gain more growth from your existing clients than having to go out and find new ones.
Aluminium bi-folding doors and sliders are boosting growth in the aluminium window market. At the start of the resurgence of residential aluminium, it was led firmly by bi-folding doors and sliders. Since then, roots in the market become deep and strong, with aluminium windows quickly growing more popular.
That popularity seems to be contained to the upper part of the market, for now. I am seeing evidence of it bleeding through into wider parts of the market, not classically upper end, and I think that trend over the longer term will continue.
I also think more and more of the market believes that this is the direction the sector is going in. It almost feels like there is a rush to join the aluminium bandwagon now before it becomes too full and the early opportunities have gone. So many fabricators are pushing aluminium now, and installers are doing the same. Social media advertising is crammed full of aluminium products, with some brand new companies appearing that only deal exclusively in aluminium.
Do I think aluminium will overtake PVCu totally? No. There are more budget parts of the market that simply won’t entertain the higher price bracket that aluminium sits in, even in the cheaper systems. The mass housing market will also stick with PVCu as it’s the most cost-effective option for them. You might get some smaller niche builders which may offer it in the future, but not on mass.
But do I think residential aluminium will end up taking a decent chunk out of the market dominance of PVCu in the next 5-10 years? Yes. There is a clear market move towards it, the data backs it up, and anyone with any form of social media platform will already be seeing the trends.
If you’re a PVCu fabricator that still hasn’t thought about adding aluminium as an option, I would start thinking about it sooner rather than later. The market has cooled off massively and new ways to generate revenue are going to become very important very quickly. The same goes for installers that as of yet are too hesitant to decide to add aluminium to their own offerings.
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