Crystal comment: Q1 2018

Steve Halford, Group Managing Director The Crystal Group is BMBI’s Expert for PVC-U Windows & Doors.

The first quarter of 2018 saw buoyant enquiry levels in the merchant sector – nearly 30% up on Q4 2017 and 11% up on Q1 2017. In transactions, Q1 is down -2.5% on Q4 2017, yet 10% up year on year. The PVC-U window and door market continues to grow strongly in the builders’ merchants sector, but would it be even stronger if more merchants joined in?

The recent BMN Leading Lights supplement of top builders’ merchants compares their year-on-year performance. Growth is a good indicator of business health and many are growing strongly but some are missing out. In the eternal search for new products and markets, larger, lower risk opportunities can be missed: not all merchants sell PVC-U windows and doors.

To compare PVC-U windows with other high-ticket items in merchants’ showrooms, total 2017 UK kitchen sales were estimated at around £3bn (MTW Research) and UK bathroom product sales at 0.9bn (AMA Research). We estimate the total market for PVC-U windows, doors and conservatories at around £5bn – comfortably more than the two combined.

Why are builders’ merchants doing so well with PVC-U windows?

Firstly, the market changed as larger window manufacturers took sales from small local manufacturers, who supplied builders directly. Offered bespoke PVC-U windows in fast turnaround times and a wide choice of frames, styles and colour choices, builders are switching to builders’ merchants in significant numbers.

Builders prefer to buy windows from their main building supplies stockists. It’s estimated that around 16,000 builders install PVC-U windows, so it’s potentially captive business.
Successful merchants benefit from showroom and sales investment just like kitchens and bathrooms: showroom displays, online configurators and PVC-U window-trained knowledgeable staff.

In today’s uncertain economy, shouldn’t merchants ask if they’re getting their share of this low risk market? Evidence shows builders really want to buy PVC-U windows and doors from merchants. Based on the 3-6% of total sales merchants achieve with kitchen and bathrooms and their sales turnovers in the Leading Lights report, a conservative estimate of 3% of sales translates to around £3m-£6m of window and doors revenue for each of those merchants listed. That’s many missing millions!

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