John Duffin, Managing Director Keylite Roof Windows is BMBI’s Expert for Roof Windows.
Strong Quarter 4 housing and Repair, Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) performances have contributed to 2016 ending on a relative high compared to the gloom many predicted mid-year. House building registrations increased in most UK regions, apart from London.
The roof window market grew by an estimated 8-11%, with merchants enjoying strong demand from the RMI market which accounts for the majority of roof window sales. Roof windows are the practical, cost effective daylight solution which small builders are confident installing. They are a strong driver of over-the-counter business.
So, the focus for manufacturers must be to strengthen merchant partnerships and add real value through initiatives which secure merchants’ ‘ownership’ of customer groups, and drive direct sales rather than just create noise in the market.
As the UK’s overall migration to consumer e-commerce continues, merchants face increasing competition from arms-length, roof window internet traders. To combat this threat, merchants can work closely with their manufacturer partners, pooling their combined resources to compete effectively together for online sales. The last thing merchants need is to have to start competing with their suppliers for online business.
Manufacturer-merchant partnerships can be extremely effective in capturing online sales. For example, a combined campaign achieved 112% online sales growth in the 12 months to end 2016. This £6-7m online growth market is shaping the service consumers and smaller builders expect from merchants. Today’s web-savvy builder or self-build consumer no longer accepts getting their products dropped off “when the lorry is passing their way”. Today’s internet buyers expect fast, predictable delivery and our industry needs to respond with customer focused service.
Raw material increases, rising fuel costs and the effects of a weaker pound introduce a cautious note for Q1. Building material shortages are becoming a concern to national house builders who already face extended lead times and many price increases. This is manageable, but the biggest threat to the industry is anything that dents consumer confidence. Brexit negotiations are days away so we must rely on political management to keep demand afloat.