Crystal comment: Q4 2017

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

The fourth quarter of 2017 eased back in construction and the economy as consumer confidence wilted under the threat of uncertainty and political instability. But there was little sign of slowdown in merchants’ sales of PVC-U windows and doors. Enquiries slowed but Q417 orders were strongly up on Q416, and up on Q317.

The disruptive effects of online technology, new formats and new ways to buy are turning retail on its head. Many retailers had a torrid 2017 and all the big grocers lost share to Aldi and Lidl, and to Ocado which grew faster than the rest of the online food market.

The turmoil has triggered market restructuring. Tesco is acquiring Booker; Amazon bought Whole Foods; the Coop is buying Nisa; and ASDA is buying B&M. Tesco grew 2.6% in the 12 weeks to the end of January, but Aldi and Lidl both grew 16%. Tesco plans to fight back with a new discount chain. John Lewis is cutting support staff and a difficult year prompted Next to question if it should still have physical stores! Wesfarmers said it may pull the plug on Bunnings UK.

Many retailers are absorbing cost increases because they can’t pass them on: consumers have researched online what they could pay before they come in.

It’s not a battle between online and bricks and mortar: the first part of the customer journey is mostly online. The challenge is combining them into a slick Omnichannel experience that’s how people like to buy. And from their own experience builders are aware of best practice, because who doesn’t buy online?

We’re all going on an Omnichannel journey with customer showrooms, online software that’s more transactional, videos, online configurators, a new sales toolkit and measuring service and training. Ideally merchants will travel with an Omnichannel partner who makes it easy for them to match customer expectations and sell more PVC-U windows, doors and conservatories, more easily at good margins. Buying is changing, and we need to help merchants change how they sell to match how customers want to buy.

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