Although there has been plenty of marketing content published by manufacturers of conservatories and solid roofs in recent months, it does feel like we have moved comfortably past the peak of this particular niche. Especially solid roofs.

In a market that is dealing with a likely recession, a cost of living crisis and a huge momentum swing towards aluminium, what happens now to the conservatory and glazed extension market?

18% say not part of plans

As I like to do when I write these kinds of posts, I went to social media to gauge the sentiment around a particular subject. In this case, I tweeted a poll which lasted a week asking whether glazed extensions or conservatories were going to play a major part of business in the coming years. These were the results of that poll:

For an industry that continues to push these products, I guess you would call that a very underwhelming response. Less than a fifth who voted said they glazed extensions and conservatories would play an integral role in their business in the coming few years. I did expect that number to be fairly vanilla, but not as low as that.

More than just the poll results, you can feel that the energy has somewhat waned in the last few years towards these products. There has certainly been an emphasis towards garden rooms thanks to COVID, and that part of the market appears to be sustaining that growth. But in terms of solid roofs and conservatories, that momentum just isn’t there. I know anecdotally both at our place and other installers that I speak to, there is a move away from these types of products to other product groups which require less manual work and have better margins.

Other installers have told me that they want to do fewer glazed extensions because of the work and other trades involved. It’s much easier to install more windows and doors at better margins and less labour than it is to organise the refurbishment or building of a new glazed extension. Some have also cast doubt on the quality of the roofs in the market.

I fully expect a retort of some kind from suppliers of said products or at least PR agencies on behalf of their clients, saying that their products are the ones to turn things around, which I have already had not long after I put the poll out on Twitter.

Whilst the market is not dead, there needs to be a sharp focus on innovation and finding new avenues to explore.

Product innovation

As someone on social media put it to me, there has been very little in terms of innovation over the past two decades. I tend to agree. Polycarbonate roofs have pretty much died off, with insurance work keeping them alive. Glass roofs have improved in terms of their glazing and insulation values, but again, the wheel hasn’t really been reinvented as such. Solid roofs have been the biggest deviation away from the established roof products, but again, I cannot say that there have been huge jumps in the evolution of those products. Small increments here and there, but nothing staggering.

It is worth noting that solid roofs managed to breathe life into a tired market when the conservatory market passed its peak and the recession hit in 2008 and 2009. Since then, companies dedicated just to renovating conservatories have sprung up and have done well.

But the market is in a very different place right now. People are having to prioritise spending between what is required and what is a luxury. Windows that are badly aged or damaged would be seen as a necessary purchase. A conservatory with an old polycarbonate roof I’m afraid won’t be classed the same. Homeowners who were thinking of investing in upgrading existing conservatories may be putting that decision off until things settle down again.

So there are two points to this. Installers who are looking to focus on their core products, and homeowners who are being hamstrung by the economic situation. Despite that though, there are still roads to opportunity.

The lantern and flat glass rooflight market is the most obvious one to me. Most conservatory roof manufacturers also have a lantern option now. These are cheaper than full roofs, often aluminium and quick to install. They are easily marketable to the homeowner and are an attractive way to allow light into a room. They can also be a gateway product to bigger projects and could lead to larger renovations or new extensions.

Companies that produce roof products are also going to have to go on the offensive with both installers and consumers on the marketing front. Sales often rely on desire. When times are hard, it is that desire which becomes harder to create. So suppliers need to be able to appeal to homeowners to reassure them that spending thousands, even now, on their homes is a worthy investment. Disillusioned installers that appear to have turned away from the market also need a good enough reason to look at the glazed extension market once again. They need to be inspired once again by this part of the market.

Things could get pretty tight for some smaller producers in a market like this so being proactive now is going to be vital.

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