Jim Blanthorne, Managing Director Keylite Roof Windows is BMBI’s Expert for Roof Windows.
As we reflect on Q1, a combination of higher than forecast demand, learning to adapt to a post-Brexit customs environment, and material availability challenges would best be described as character building. Team Keylite needed every ounce of our passion, agility and resilience to come out smiling!
Sales performance was generally strong, albeit with a slightly slow start to the year which could be attributed to the understandable stock piling by merchant stockists in Q4 2020 to mitigate Brexit related supply chain risks. As we progressed into mid-January, the situation normalised with the exception of the Republic of Ireland, where construction was locked down, somewhat denting volumes from this market.
Other core markets continued to perform well, bolstered by continued strong demand from the RMI sector together with a marked increase in construction output. Government stimulus in the form of extended stamp duty holidays amongst other measures resulted in the strongest property market in a decade: welcome news for all of us in the business of the manufacture and distribution of building materials.
So what about Brexit? As it happened, shipping was challenging at times but through good relationships with haulage partners and a great deal of planning, we secured most of the capacity we needed. However, Brexit has certainly not come without cost. Customs arrangements (combined with Covid disruption) have resulted in significant surcharges from hauliers, while the administrative burden of reporting on our import and export activity resulted in the need to recruit.
Roof window core materials of timber, PVC, aluminium, glass, foam, plastic and steel components have all seen availability issues or cost increases. Some have seen both. The root causes of Covid, shipping and capacity reductions are well documented. But, speaking for Keylite, we appear to have fared better than some, having largely being able to shelter our customers from the disruption using our significant stock holding at our distribution centres, however cost inflation will inevitably result in upwards pressure on price.
As we enter Q2, the fragility of global supply chains is more apparent than ever. Our commitment is to continue to increase stocks of raw materials, sub components and finished goods to mitigate against this, in support of growing volumes with our loyal customers.