The saga of the demise of UK Windows & Doors Group was a sad story in what has been a rather tough year for the entire sector. It saw the collapse of a group of well-known brands, as well as the permanent closure of Duraflex, which happened in the summer with the hope that the cost savings would help stabilise the group.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case. But within the ashes of the group, there remained a jewel in Evolution. One of the original companies that helped to form the timber alternative niche that is now a sector in its own right.
Good for the sector
I will admit that I had some self-interest in Evolution being saved. We sell their product at our own installations business and have done for some time. We had a number of orders waiting to be delivered, and we were waiting for as long as possible to see an outcome before we had to try and resell our clients on a different product. We like the product and so do our customers.
In the end, they got bought. But not by the people many would have liked it to have been. At the time there were signals that the original owners were going to retake the helm. News of that chance was received very well indeed. I myself was excited at the prospect as I know there would have been a great deal of life and energy put back into what was once a great thriving business. Things were not the same there in my experience once the company was bought into a bigger group.
As we now know, Everest ended up being the buyers, the news of which was in complete contrast to earlier signs that Surgit Singh was about to take control. In all honesty, I did not welcome the news either. This was a business that itself has found to be in near permanent peril for a while, with questionable sales methods and general concerns about quality. It also did not seem like a natural fit. They are very much a national retail-facing business. Evolution are a niche, high-end manufacturer and I don’t think many have ever given any thought to these two businesses becoming an item one day.
That being said, it is what it is and we have to live with the result. The crux is that Evolution is able to continue. This is a company that was one of the original trailblazers in the late 2000s which ushered in the age of timber-alternative PVCu casement windows and doors. They were formed in 2005 and by October 2006 they were (according to their website) the first fabricator to bring in White wood grain windows and doors. This was before their Storm 2 and flush casement products were launched.
Niche fabricators are often the ones that push the industry forward with new ideas and dare to challenge the status quo. Not bound to cliques or existing agreements, they can design and trial new ideas and products. Some fail, some succeed. All mean that the sector continues to progress.
It was the 82mm deep Storm 2 window which really landed the business on the map. A product designed from the ground up to mimic in much closer detail a quality hardwood timber window.
The 82mm frame, although only 12mm thicker than the standard 70mm frame, meant you could achieve a slim sculptured line on the inside of the outer frame which became a powerful USP for the product. They developed a casement which was shallower than a standard casement. They created a 45mm deep cill designed to replicate that of a timber window. And then the introduction of the Timberweld timber-look joint topped it off.
The result was a window which certainly grabbed your attention and stood out radically from the choice that was available at the time. This was a genuine large step forwards for the PVCu window market and began a trend that has seen various successful manufacturers enter the market with their own interpretation of timber-alternative windows and doors.
It’s worth a nod to the sash window market at this point, as many in that space rightfully argue that they are the true timber-alternative window companies. Indeed, PVCu sash windows have been around for a long time, and their quality and the fact that certain specifications now get passed in conservation areas and certain listed buildings is testament to how far they have come.
Evolution though is firmly in the casement market, and their PVCu engineered door is another reason why the saving of this company is good for the sector. In many ways their entrance door stands out on it’s own. They were the first to create a super-wide midrail section at 190mm wide to recreate the same wide section on a timber door. A feature that has since been in itself replicated and redone by other fabricators. Combined with timber look joints, their 82mm deep outer frame and think Sculptured lines they have created a hell of a door which actually goes a very long way to proving the overall general quality and good design that PVCu engineered doors can achieve.
Although not the largest in their niche, Evolution as a company is actually heritage within the fenestration sector now. A forebear of a sector they helped carve out themselves. What I hope is that Everest understands the nature of the business and product they have bought and that they do justice to it. I hope that they allow Evolution to run independently of their bigger business and that they don’t create a situation where the installers that now technically buy from them come up against their own reps selling the product. They have bought a gem. It needs to be treated as such and given the room to grow and breathe.
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