John Duffin, Managing Director Keylite Roof Windows is BMBI’s Expert for Roof Windows.
The year 2017 finished positively with a strong Q4 performance for roof window sales giving a welcome boost after a relatively flat quarter three. These upbeat figures mean double digit growth for the full year, providing good grounds for thinking we might see strong growth in 2018.
This is in contrast to ONS Construction Output Data which recorded a drop in overall construction output for a third successive quarter. The difference between ONS data and our sector’s sales growth is likely to shrink when the ONS figures are revised as their full data comes in. Revisions get little publicity but can be chunky. For example, +0.2% in Q1 is now +2.3%! Q2 has gone from -1.3% to -0.5% with more revisions due, and Q3 has shifted from -0.9% to -0.3% with more to come.
In part too, it’s explained by a strong performance in private housing work, and a fifth consecutive month of growth, reaching its highest level on record. Merchants can see these trends turn into demand for roof windows at their counters. During 2017, white PVC-U windows and additional frame material choices were increasingly popular, meeting the demand for products relevant for the modern home. Nationally, housing supply lags demand, prompting expectations that it will continue to generate growth in new build and RMI. But, Brexit is the bogeyman with the potential to rain on the industry’s parade, regardless of underlying demand.
RMI could also be hit by a drop in consumer confidence from the uncertainty and anxiety created by chaotic Brexit negotiations. Weak performance on the high street during the Christmas period and sharply falling UK car sales painted a depressing picture of weakening consumer confidence. We hope consumers’ concerns don’t hit the housing market, particularly if interest rates climb further in the coming months.
Another Brexit reality, the weakness in sterling continues to drive UK pricing, with roof window increases announced in Q4 being implemented in Q1 2018.
However, regardless of these macro factors, we believe the roof window industry will continue to push ahead in 2018. Underlying strong demand plus innovations that benefit homeowners give them more reasons to plan roof windows into their projects.