John Duffin, Managing Director Keylite Roof Windows is BMBI’s Expert for Roof Windows.
After a relatively quiet start, Q1 finished stronger, maintaining the 8-11% growth in Q4 2016. Although very positive for roof windows, growth appears to have been uneven regionally.
Avid statistics watchers may be bewildered by the apparently conflicting reports that appear weekly on construction activity. But, NHBC Q1 stats are very encouraging with a 17% increase on new housing registrations year on year. There is obviously a delay before registrations convert to more vans leaving the merchants’ gate for builders.
Although new build is important to roof windows, RMI (Repair, Maintenance and Improvement) accounts for the majority of roof window sales. The homeowner holds the purse strings in RMI, rather than housebuilders, so a completely different set of rules apply. Confidence is king, and for roof windows that translates to homeowners’ confidence to borrow to fund an extension or loft conversion.
Uncertainties from the Brexit referendum, and another national election may be distracting consumers and denting confidence and demand. But a growing population and not enough suitable places to live make for a tight housing market. The latest indications are that house prices are stagnating, as affordability and the cost of moving is forcing people to stay put. The upside seems to be that homeowners who are not moving home, invest in extensions and loft conversions which are the main source of roof window demand.
In a fast growing market, the roof window industry’s approach must be to grow merchants’ roof window business by creating products which meet consumers’ changing needs, making their use more likely in RMI projects. For example, Keylite is launching new low maintenance, energy efficient, PVC roof windows with homeowner appeal, giving merchants new opportunities to engage this market.
As neither merchants nor manufacturers can ultimately influence the top line statistics, we should work in close partnership to influence the bottom line by making the most of what the market throws up to us. On that basis I’m confident that Q1 has laid a good foundation for a rewarding year.