With continuing certainty over the actual health and state of the fenestration sector at the moment, we can turn to other ways to measure interest that the industry heralded as good indicators. In this case, Google Trends.
Google Trends data was used in the Spring and Summer of 2020, after the first lockdown ended, to try and demonstrate where the upsurge in demand for home improvement products was coming from. Key products such as “patio doors” and “composite doors” were searched in an effort to prove that consumers were rushing to spend their money on improving their homes.
As we know, that data was right, and we spent the best part of the next two years desperately trying to keep up with demand in an industry that was caught completely on the back foot.
Now, that same data is telling a different story.
Trends data falls away
If you were to search the term “composite door” and “patio door”, and use the 5-year dataset, this is the chart that Google Trends will generate for you. I have added a couple of annotations myself:
You can see where the search data really fell off a cliff just as the country was placed into lockdown. Then, as the weather granted us a pretty good summer by UK standards, and people’s pockets were being filled with free money to stop the economy from imploding, demand roared back way beyond normal levels. You can see that in the chart above with an almost vertical spike in trend data.
It remained high for the best part of two years with most parts of the economy shuttered to some degree, with the home improvement market enjoying relative freedom in comparison to other sectors.
Now, the chart shows that the same data used to measure demand early on during the pandemic has fallen away. In fact, it is now slightly below 2018 and 2019 levels. Years that are often referred back to in order to gain a more “accurate” comparison away from COVID-affected years.
As we know, since the end of lockdown restrictions, rampant price inflation, the soaring cost of living and surging interest rates are hampering the economy, with parts of the public cutting back on discretionary spending to focus on the most important bills at home. This, without a doubt, will impact spending on home improvements.
Finding compelling reasons
Although the data indicates that demand is weaker than in previous years, it has not cratered to levels seen at the start of lockdown. This means there are some signs of solidity within the market, even if they aren’t as strong as they once were.
The fact is that hesitation among spenders has risen. The cost of everything seems to be going up, with wages unable to keep pace and mortgages rocketing up thanks to rising interest rates. That does not mean no one has any money. It just means that they need to be given a compelling enough reason to spend it on new windows and doors.
Unlike 2020 and 2021, where we could just walk into work and have orders walk through the door (pun intended), the industry is going to have to get very creative and very active if we are going to convince people that new windows or new doors are the correct purchase for their home right now.
The USPs are obvious. The biggest one is energy efficiency. New windows and doors can genuinely save a home a lot of money in the long run, and being able to tell a family that they could save hundreds per year on energy bills is a very powerful USP. But they need to be able to afford the new windows in the first place.
Design and aesthetics are also major USPs. Image-based social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are great ways to generate leads and interest by showing off the sexier side of our industry. We are seeing it right now, with companies showing off amazing doors and windows, often in aluminium, to capture the attention and imagination of a potential buyer. There is nothing more powerful than good design and once that desire is built up in a consumer to make their home look like it does in the picture, that immediately becomes an effective sales tool.
Security always remains a good USP. Unfortunately, as times become tough for many, crime will rise. This puts security at the forefront and is a helpful point to focus on for installers when talking with potential clients. Nothing focuses the mind more than making sure the wrong sort of people are kept out of your home and away from your family and possessions.
The long and short of all of this is that we’re going to have to become way more active as demand begins to dampen if we are to sustain the growth we have created over the last couple of years. This is easier said than done, with multiple external factors on the playing field over which we have little control. And there will be some casualties along the way. But as we saw during the last recession, companies and people with the right mindset will find success.
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