Overall BMBI reports growth of around 7% on the previous year when adjusted for trading days. But taking price inflation into account we get a more accurate picture of the market, which is in a current state of limbo – a reflection of the economy. Total UK construction figures are lower, pulled down by infrastructure and industrial, but new housing and RMI have fared better, reflecting the constant demand for new housing, with regional variations.
The roof window market is growing as housebuilders and homeowners turn empty roof space into habitable living room. We see no end to this trend. Government is promising to boost housebuilding and in much of the UK there is an acute shortage of living space.
Keylite’s own sales of roof windows more than reflect this trend with double figure growth in the period, partly boosted by innovative new windows, however the expected September sales peak was a little lacklustre. This weaker month reflects poor RMI figures for September with the ONS reporting +0.4% on the year before, and -2.0% compared to August.
Looking at the wider economy, there are warning lights flashing on the high street which reported its lowest quarterly growth rate in four years, with September dipping sharply and economists pointing to inflation, static earnings and Brexit fears as the main culprits.
One thing which hasn’t been slipping however is the UK’s relentless march towards e-commerce, with month after month of new highs in online trade. Buying online has become a way of life, especially among the emerging generations, and this is both a threat and an opportunity for the merchant. The threat of online is that it enables those with relatively little local resource or investment to cream off vast swathes of business which was traditionally the domain of bricks and mortar businesses. Where the builders’ merchant industry has been slow to adopt e-commerce there is always the risk that impatient manufacturers will bypass the merchant and sell directly to their customers.
Merchants may feel the nature of their business protects them against direct selling, but already we can see some roof window manufacturers cutting the merchant out via their online activities. Is it in merchants’ best interests to support manufacturers selling directly in competition with them?